In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Acts 2:17

Welcome to the first MMU in the post-Ally era. If you get this, that means that I (with Ally’s help) have managed to put together the newsletter and send it out. I confess that when Ally told me she was moving back to Georgia, one of my first task-related concerns was this key communications vehicle. As a staff we considered cutting back on the frequency, but Ally reported that on average 58% of the recipients actually click through to open it, which is a very high rate, so we will try to stay current every week. I believe that we are about to welcome a new staff member who will help make this happen, so I continue to thank God for providing for our ministries.

In the meantime, we do what we can. And it is helpful to me that I have been able to dwell on Jesus’ ascension, when he promises great power to the disciples as he leaves their physical presence. I say physical because, of course, Jesus also promised to be with the disciples—and so we live in the presence of Christ: in spirit, in the gathered body, at the communion table, as we encounter the least of Christ’s family.

Indeed, we are blessed in San Gabriel Presbytery with experiencing Christ’s presence in our life together. I have commented on the gifts of new members, and I’ve shared with other presbyteries how we also learn of the incredible giftedness of our current active members, especially as we find out how our ruling elders and members do God’s work in their “day jobs.” I continue to marvel at the wisdom and dedication of our retirees, who are a constant source of encouragement for me and many others.

Of course, we cannot become complacent, and we must not settle for huddling in our own upper rooms, afraid to encounter the wider world. The Holy Spirit came into that house where Jesus’ friends stayed, and gave them power—all of them—far beyond what was expected of their social status. The Holy Spirit came in and made a spectacle of them, so much that they attracted the attention of the Pentecost celebrants outside. And as usually happens when we become spectacular, some may mock us and doubt us, and some will be intrigued and attracted—and we don’t get to decide who.

As we give thanks for the gifts of our current body, we are encouraged with new friends and those who might be peeking in at us. At last week’s meeting of the Justice Peacemaking and Mission Committee, we were discussing how our churches serve others who are in need of shelter and other services, and new member Kevin Haah gently suggested that we need not assume that only people outside our churches could use some help. And our Representation reports give encouraging numbers on racial diversity in our leadership, but we greatly lack the presence of younger generations, as well as those who are differently abled. It’s entirely possible that our young people are seeing visions and prophesying, just as we know that our older family members are dreaming dreams. The question is, how do we attract their attention, and listen with courage to their prophetic voices, confident that God is speaking through them?

There are a few opportunities coming up this summer that will allow us to expand our welcome, and listen to new voices and new dreams:

  • June 17, 9 am—lunch: our next Presbytery meeting will be in-person at Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church, 4848 Eagle Rock We will have a short meeting in the first hour, and then spend the morning in our annual Day of Service. This year, in addition to general cleaning and putting together hygiene kits for patients being released without shelter from LA General Medical Center (aka LAC+USC Medical Center), you can choose to learn from David Newsom of Wild Yards Project and work on their native plants demonstration garden on the church campus, or consult with Making Housing and Community Happen about utilizing church property to support the community. You can click here to register for the meeting. At the bottom of the form you can now give in advance for the June Presbytery offering, which will go to Friends in Deed Pasadena, who actively serves and partners with neighbors needing help with food, shelter, and for women a daytime respite and resource center.
  • June 30-July 4: Wendy Gist and Via International have planned a short visit to Tijuana and San Diego, that we may meet with folks from Latin America and beyond who are seeking asylum in the United States. Via International is a non-profit doing wonderful work on both sides of the border with community organizing, self-development opportunities, shelter, nutrition programs, and other life-giving work. You can find information here which includes links to register. We are asking that you register by May 30.
  • There are several ministry opportunities open right now, to lead worship at Knox in Pasadena, work with children and youth at Calvary in South Pasadena, and help lead the Presbytery as part- time Stated Find more information in the “Job Opportunities” column of today’s Monday Morning Update.

At times like these, and as we look ahead to the Day of Pentecost, there are a few things that we must remember about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not sit still, but is constantly moving—and rather than try to hold on to what was, we are asked to enjoy and fill our sails with the breath of God. The Holy Spirit does give us power to proclaim Christ’s life-giving love to a hurting world, not just to ourselves, and we can be bold to claim and utilize that power, to the glory of God. Indeed, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit is holy—unpredictable and uncontrollable, sometimes bewildering, but emanating from God who knows and loves better than we can understand or create for ourselves.

Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.                                                                       Ephesians 3:20-21

Happy Pentecost!




“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

As I mentioned last week, this month I have several opportunities to check in with the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the national level.

The Board of Pensions shared their difficulties trying to manage the rising costs of the medical plan, and anticipate that there will be a significant change to the benefits program for pastors, probably effective in January 2025. Their pension fund continues to be over-funded (150% of anticipated pension payments), but they cannot use those funds to pay for medical coverage. We participants could not read what might be in store (whatever the changes are won’t be previewed for another year), but there’s a chance that the “one size fits all” approach to benefits will go away, and the kinds of benefits will be negotiated as part of a pastor’s compensation package. This will lead to more flexibility, but also more complexity, and for some pastors, more cost. If you want to join in the discussion this summer, there will be virtual town halls conducted. The Board put together a website focused on this “Season of Rebuilding.” The website is and if you hit the button under “Engaging the Church” you can register to participate in a town hall.

Last week I was outside Baltimore, at the training for new presbytery leaders, called Presbytery Leader Formation (PLF). As I mentioned last week, the high turnover of what used to be called the “exec position” in the presbyteries has brought high demand for this training, and some shifts in the kind of people who fill the position. There is a little bit of racial diversity (though much of it is coming from Southern California), and there is a noticeable shift to younger leaders who may not have many years of pastoral leadership before taking this role. Also, presbytery staffs continue to shrink, so there are many part-time leaders, and quite a few people holding a hybrid role as presbytery executive and stated clerk. In a session for those who are already serving this way, the old wall between the two functions is not real for them, except for judicial cases. So a couple of people were very interested in the arrangement we have with Steve Salyards as Stated Clerk for Judicial Process; off-hand I know of three presbyteries that have made that a distinct function.

But what struck me was the spirit of the group. The participants were positive, open-hearted, and appreciative of each others’ differing contexts. They also seemed more introverted, which was a shift from the palpable extroversion of prior leaders. And I didn’t notice the posturing that sometimes comes when you get many people in similar leadership positions. In fact, some brand new execs from very large presbyteries (like Grace in Texas and New Hope in North Carolina) came after only weeks on the job, and they were just as humble as the other participants.

By the end of the week, there was a general sense that the PC(USA) has a bright future ahead. The folks know there are issues and challenges, but there wasn’t the general sense of loss or doom or cynicism that sometimes mark such gatherings. While at the Board of Pensions meeting, one new exec commented on the negativity he had witnessed already, and expressed hope that the Presbytery Leader Formation approach would be more positive. He suggested that as an African-American pastor, his cultural background incorporated knowledge of brokenness in the world with a strong affirming faith in a good God. This could be just one advantage of increased diversity, to bring that faith into the leadership roles of the church.

Next week several leaders from the national staff will be visiting Southern California. Though I am not very involved in the inner workings of the national church these days, I get a sense that there is much trepidation there, as the “Unification” of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) seems to be moving ahead. The recent resignation of Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson as leader of OGA adds more uncertainty.

It has always seemed to me that the realization of deep change in the church has gone in waves; first to notice, of course, are the congregations, and then the presbyteries that work with them. It could be that this change has been going on for long enough that these new, younger execs do not have memories of the “glory days” of massive, well-endowed presbyteries—and they are diverse enough not to think the days when the PC(USA) was 98% White were so glorious. I think some parts of the national church have been protected enough from day-to-day church life that they are facing the challenges only now. My hope is that they will listen with new openness to the experiences of those who have been struggling for a while, not only to incorporate their needs in future planning, but also to take hope when they see that what they feared will not kill them. For better or for worse, we now face challenges that were unheard of before: churches leaving the denomination or closing down, tragedies such as natural disasters or mass shootings with increasing frequency, and of course the pandemic. And the frequent response to this troubled life is gratitude—that God never abandoned us, and that we are part of a larger church family that can help each other through the hard times.

Today is Ally’s last active day as Stated Clerk for Administration, leaving us with confusion about the future while being grateful for her presence and her ministry these last 3.5 years. And this Thursday, the liturgical calendar marks the Ascension of Jesus, in anticipation of the Day of Pentecost on May

In the midst of the confusion and grief and mystery of Jesus’ resurrection and upcoming ascension (read: departure), those poor very human disciples were told that they would receive great power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, enabling them to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to their neighbors, their cousins, and then to the whole world. Perhaps that is what we are experiencing today, a mini-Pentecost, a new unleashing of the Holy Spirit on us confused and grieving human disciples. Perhaps the potential was always there, but we didn’t notice it because we were so sure of ourselves and our own power that we didn’t seek any help from God. In any case, as we are hungry enough to seek God’s grace and assurances right now, may we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim anew, for this time and this place.





I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

2 Corinthians 8:13-15

I am spending much of the month of May connecting with the national church.

It started last week, as Pat Martinez-Miller and I attended a consultation with the Board of Pensions. They are grappling with the issue of rising medical costs, and a much smaller base of members (less than half of the membership from a few decades ago) pooling resources to care for those of us in the medical benefits plan of the Board of Pensions. That doesn’t mean we have fewer pastors. It seems that they have figured out the now fairly common practice of churches choosing not to install pastors in order to avoid paying for the Pastor’s Participation package of benefits. I also pointed out how many churches are changing what used to be associate pastor positions to director-level positions, again to avoid paying Board of Pensions dues. They didn’t have a plan to outline for us, but they were hoping to have something approved in the spring of 2024, to take effect January 2025. That seems a long way away, but if the change is significant, they are counting on presbyteries to help implement the changes, and helping the churches to manage benefits as a part of compensation negotiations.

I am writing you now from the Bon Secours Retreat Center in Marriottsville, Maryland. We are beginning a week of training for new presbytery leaders. The people used to hold the title Executive or General Presbyter, and some do, but many presbyteries have looked to change the titles. The training started this evening, but it was shared already that the participants in this 3-year program represent about one-third of all the presbyteries in the PC(USA), and if you go back a few years more, over the last 7 years, about half of the presbyteries have changed their executive leadership. At nine years in San Gabriel Presbytery, I am now considered one of the old-timers! Four of our seven SoCal presbyteries have leaders in the program, and Riverside is close to calling someone, so we are also seeing an influx of new leaders.

Some of this change is good, as the new presbytery leaders tend to be more diverse, in tune with the changing church, and a bit younger than in years past. And quite a few presbyteries are experimenting with new structures, including having executives also take on stated clerk roles, or employing several very part-time staff who are also pastoring churches. (One thing that hasn’t changed: there were less than a handful of ruling elders in the job, out of 50+ participants.) Actually, we in San Gabriel have made a shift with our stated clerk role, splitting the core duties between an administrative clerk and a clerk for judicial process, inspired by a similar split in New Covenant Presbytery in and around Houston. Because we work hard responding to concerns from our churches, we have been very successful in avoiding judicial cases, thank God.

I will be in Baltimore until Friday. I enjoy working in this format, which invites the participants to share their own insights. Even if I thought any of us is an “expert” in this work, the work is constantly changing, and the regional contexts are so different, that it would be difficult to try to describe the job from one person’s perspective. But I get to share some of the experiments we’ve tried at San Gabriel,

and that has been fun. One thing I have heard from the Board of Pensions consultation and this group, and that is the great challenges experienced by rural churches. You may know that there has been a steady migration from rural areas to cities, and there are many towns now that cannot sustain any church. It has become a difficult place to live, and therefore to work. Many churches feel like they have been forgotten and left to fend for themselves, sometimes by their own presbyteries.

And finally, in a couple of weeks, seven top staff from the national church are coming to SoCal, for a “listening” session. I put that in quotes because at least the first hour (out of three) will be them presenting what they are doing, then they are asking us to discuss the opportunities and challenges we see in our presbyteries. If you have something you want to make sure I say, let me know, or contact the rest of the San Gabriel contingent: Pat Martinez-Miller, Deborah Owens, Sam Bang, and Brian Gaeta-Symonds. That is May 23rd. But on May 21st, OGA staff manager Jihyun Oh will preach at Knox and at Interwoven, and on Wednesday, May 24th, Kerry Rice and Tricia Dykers-Koenig of OGA will come to West Covina and Covina to speak with the pastors there.

It is interesting to hear from the national church. In certain ways they are like the Jerusalem church of the early Christian churches who, then and now, seem to be in special need for support from the individual churches. But the most challenging issues have to do with the disparity of “have” and “have not” churches. There has been open conversation about not forgetting the “fly over” states, and acknowledging that we are a denomination of relatively few large churches, and most churches have under 100 members and many are struggling. Due to the lack of funding at the national level, there is significant work being done to merge the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly. And you may have heard that the Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson, has resigned, and will leave the position at the end of June.

While the national church is facing some new challenges, my hope is that we figure out a way to address the growing disparities between the have and have-not churches. We need not reflect the community by perpetuating these disparities within our churches, and perhaps the true test of a connectional church is our ability to support churches that are low in resources but with a significant ministry who would miss them if they went away. There are no easy answers, but perhaps we can pray for some insight—and the will to look out for each other, because the disparities are within each presbytery, including ours.

As our siblings in the United Church of Christ say, “We pray for the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none.” May we see the day when all will be shared, all will be cared for, all will be fed.


God Isn’t Done With Us Yet

God Isn’t Done With Us Yet

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37b-38

This last weekend I attended two joyous and intriguing events.

On Saturday, Praise Community Church celebrated their 50th anniversary. The worship service included their founding pastor, Rev. Dr. Prachuab Dechawan, as well as their current pastor, Rev. Dr. Peter Tan- Gatue. Prachuab remembered the beginnings of the church, and their initial vision of a church that worships in their own Thai language, and responds to the needs of the Thai immigrant community. For most of their 50 years, the church has been a cultural as well as religious center for the Thai community. Peter honored the past 50 years of ministry, but also reminded the church of God’s call to leave the past behind in order to follow Christ’s mission today, because “God isn’t done with us yet.” In the service, it was beautifully evident how the church has embraced all of what both pastors said. Long-time members in traditional Thai dress graciously welcomed all, as only Thai people can. Many of them were in the choir, which now includes a young adult in jeans, a couple of Caucasian worship leaders, and a Hispanic leader. Praise’s sister church, GKI-LA, was also there, bringing their prayers, food, and music. Watching this mix of cultures and gifts praise God together, it struck me how they did not forget their past, but clearly they chose to move beyond the past for the sake of the gospel.

GKI-LA is making good progress towards becoming our first Indonesian chartered church in San Gabriel Presbytery. They are blessed to have a dedicated group of younger leaders, and they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary this November. I love this photo from Saturday, including Prachuab and the future session of GKI-LA, showing how the past and future can make for a joyous and colorful present.

On Sunday, I attended a celebration of Vigilant Love, a group of Muslims and Japanese-Americans who joined together when Muslims were being threatened with exclusion, by rumored incarceration or a ban from allowing Muslims to even enter the US. A few Japanese-Americans have spoken out when the government talks about banning people because of their religion, or detaining and separating family members because they are seeking asylum from Central America’s violence. Some Japanese-Americans have not forgotten the past, leading to work so a painful and unjust history is not repeated against others.

Tomorrow we will have a very full Presbytery meeting. We do know that God isn’t done with us yet, and we will celebrate new ministries, new friends, even as we say farewell to beloved current friends. For instance, we will be examining Charlene Jin Lee for ordination, though we will have to release her to serve in Dallas, Texas. We will receive two potential new minister members, Duane Bidwell and Kevin Haah, both of whom have already contributed to the presbytery from their rich experiences in ministry. We will also conclude the very diligent and caring work of the Grace LA Administrative Commission, now that their hoped-for entry of Latin Grace members into Iglesia de la Comunidad has been accomplished.
Sadly, this will be the last San Gabriel Presbytery meeting for Ally Lee, at least for a while. In her touching reflection in last week’s Monday Update, she shared the impact we had on her ministry, and we know the impact she has had on ours. But thank God, we are a connectional church, and I expect we will see Ally again, even if she doesn’t make her way back to San Gabriel.

The will of God is like living water—fresh and flowing, bringing new friends and energy, even as we must allow others to go on to new phases of ministry themselves. Thank God that we all stay connected in the Holy Spirit, and we will always carry each other in our hearts and our life work.

Thanking God for the connections,




I thank my God for every remembrance of you, always in every one of my prayers for all of you, praying with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:3-5

I think that many of you may have heard my news that I have given my resignation to the Personnel Committee from my position as Stated Clerk for Administration effective May 15, 2023, pending the dissolution of the relationship at the April 25, 2023 Presbytery meeting. If you have not yet registered for the meeting, I hope you will take a moment to do that here.

After several months of prayer and discernment work, my husband and I have made the decision to move back to the Southeast to be closer to family. We are expecting our second child in September and want to be closer to our parents. We are members of the sandwich generation caring for family members at the beginning of life and through the health challenges of aging.

I have a deep sense of gratitude to our Presbytery. The Presbytery that cared for me throughout my ordination process. The Presbytery that took responsibility for my ordination and celebrated with me. The Presbytery that has welcomed me as a leader and then Stated Clerk in a season of tremendous change and loss. Thank you for the gifts of prayer, shared wisdom, and love that you have given to me.

I rejoice in the work that we have done together. Work to respond to the need to change how we gather and how we know one another in and through the COVID pandemic. Work to support our congregations and leaders making difficult decisions and reimagining their mission. Work to learn how to listen and respond to changing needs. Our work has been filled and sustained by God’s Spirit and God has done great things.

Over the next month, I will be saying farewell to this work. I hope to leave our leaders with as many resources as possible, so that the transition will be as smooth as possible. I hope that you will continuously lift up our Presbytery staff and leaders in prayer as transitions always push us and present unforeseen challenges. And one other request: please look at the Temporary Administrator job description in the newsletter and share it with your networks if you know someone who would be a good fit for this work that we have been engaged in together.

My dear siblings, I will miss you all. I leave you knowing that God will continue this good work in you all and in our Presbytery. Thank you for being partners in ministry with me. I will be excited to hear more from our new home!

Grace and peace,




Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55

The Resurrection is real!

This Easter weekend, the joy of Christ’s resurrection has lifted my heart in unexpected ways.

For Good Friday, I attended the annual service of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, Southern California chapter, which has been a great tradition. During COVID, it went to Zoom, of course, and this year, for the first time, they had a hybrid service, which allowed some to gather in person in Los Angeles, while also welcoming siblings from the Bay Area, thanks to the coordinating efforts of our friend Rev. Kamal Hassan, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond. NBPC does a traditional “Seven Last Words of Christ” service, with seven different preachers, and there were some powerful sermons that lifted my soul even as they were true to the suffering of Christ.

I also happened upon some sermons given by a pastor of a church of multiple races and classes in downtown LA. And as I prepared to preach at Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church on Easter morning,

I found encouragement in a recent gospel song, “Jireh,” which starts with the words “I’ll never be more loved than I am right now,” and shares the message that because God’s love is enough, so we are enough, and we have enough. As it happens, the apartment of one of the song’s writers—and co-lead singer—was destroyed by fire a few days before he was scheduled to record the song. He shared that he lost 98% of his material possessions in that fire, so there was even more power in the message when he sang it. The song has been a lifeline of hope for many people who were in despair due to homelessness, grief, or addiction. Both the pastor’s preaching and this song emphasize the life-giving grace and love of Jesus Christ, especially for people who have been burdened with shame, or despair, or lack of hope in themselves and the world. They remind me that Jesus’ sacrifice was most radically redemptive for those who have good reason to give up—and yet, who are able to look up from the pit to glimpse what great thing God has done in Jesus Christ.

As far as I can tell, I personally have no reason to give up, and my pride or privilege keeps me from fully recognizing my own need for God’s grace. I have been wondering, however, why so many people ask me with grave expressions, “How are you doing?” I am aware of the troubles of the world, and now that the weather has FINALLY become warmer and sunnier, I realize how much the cold and rain really did throw a shadow over my sense of well-being. But generally, I have always felt that God has given me more health and comfort than I deserve. The only response I have is to live a life of gratitude, and to pray and work for more people to know security and comfort in this broken world.

For this Easter, my soul is lightened as I feel just a smidgen of the deep love and grace that Jesus has, especially for those who need it the most. I am committed to share in the joy that is felt when God floods us with more healing, more hope, more life than we ever thought possible. I pray that I can keep my eyes open for those who are most hungry for the new life that Christ brings, without dwelling in the despair that seems so prevalent and paralyzing. I am aware of some of the ways that I fall short of my desire to be a better channel of God’s grace due to my impatience and general insensitivity, and hope to do better in this Easter season and beyond.

I have a favorite Easter poem, written by Korean Christian poet Ku Sang, that expresses the hope that Easter brings.

On an old plum tree stump,
seemingly dead and rotten,
like a garland of victory
flowers gleam, dazzling.

Rooted in you, even in death all things remain alive;
we see them reborn, transfigured.
How then could we doubt our own Resurrection since
by your own you gave us proof?

Since there is your Resurrection and ours,
Truth exists;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
Justice triumphs;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
suffering accepted has value;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
our faith, hope, love, are not in vain;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
our lives are not an empty abyss.

I pray that you felt the joy of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, and that you feel it every day. We are blessed to know God’s power of love over hatred and fear, of hope over despair, of life over death. May we be bearers of this good news to all around us, in word, in attitude, and in deed.

With Resurrection joy,