Love and Knowledge

Love and Knowledge

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11

I hope that you have already heard that LA County has now mandated the use of masking indoors for all again, effective yesterday, July 18. You can read the revised health order here.

Last week, LA County recommended this, but this weekend they moved the recommendation to a new mandate. This is a response to the rapid increase of COVID cases, especially with the Delta variant, which is many times more easily spread. While the case rate has tripled over the last two weeks, and the death rate has doubled, the vaccination rate has stayed essentially the same: 60.1% of residents are partially vaccinated, and 52.6% have been fully vaccinated. The positivity rate has moved to 3.17%, almost 2.5 times the positivity rate from two weeks ago—and 7 times the positivity rate a month ago.

Personally, I think this is more easily administered than the prior order, which allowed vaccinated people to go unmasked. It was highly confusing to have some businesses still requiring full masking, and even when they didn’t, there was no easy way to enforce masking of the unvaccinated. You may know that we had suggested asking all worship attendees to continue wearing masks anyway, so you don’t cause divisions between the masked and the unmasked (and you wouldn’t have to question people about their vaccination status).

While the percentage increases are huge and the growth rapid, the actual numbers are still somewhat low. The confusing thing for me is the fact that the vaccinations seem to protect people extremely well, yet the demand for vaccinations continue to be stalled. It would be sad if the lower vaccination rate enables new variants to appear.

One other new requirement from the County: if you have an unvaccinated employee, you are required to provide a free N95 respirator if asked. There is an organization providing free or low-cost masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE); see the attached flyer.

I’m sure this is confusing and frustrating. But my hope is that we Christians can approach the challenges of life with both love and knowledge, as Paul wrote to the Philippian church, from his prison cell. There are frustrations and setbacks, even injustices and harm done to us. We must not shy away from the knowledge of these challenges, yet we can respond with love and insight and the hope for a “harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” Paul himself modeled it in this letter, as he acknowledges his imprisonment, yet finds reason to give thanks to God, and is encouraged by the knowledge of the faithful prayers of the churches.

It’s interesting how often government officials are asking faith leaders to encourage and facilitate vaccinations. They are counting on the cooperation of church leaders based on your compassion, combined with an education level that leads you to see the logical advantages of vaccinations, and the faith in seeing God’s gift in providing the vaccinations.

In the coming weeks, I join Paul in praying for love and knowledge and insight, always seeking to reflect and share the glory of God trough the grace—and patience—of Jesus Christ. I also ask that you live out your prayers with actions to protect your communities with wise safety protocols.

And, on another note, let us expand and build our knowledge and insight with our summer activities, including taking the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and joining our “Processing the Pandemic” and anti-racism groups. Let me or Ally Lee know if you have questions or are interested.

In closing, let me again reference Paul, who continued in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

May you find strength to press on, knowing that Christ Jesus has made you his own.

Peace,
Wendy

 

The Opposite of Reparations

The Opposite of Reparations

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:43b-44

We are entering into summer, and at least for me, I enter with a complex of emotions. I am getting just a glimmer of hope that we might be free to experience life more fully and openly this summer, but I have not yet been able to “flip the switch” from cautious isolation to confident exploration. My sense is that our churches have also been experiencing this change in different ways, and unlike the last 15 months of restrictions, when everyone had to comply to set rules, our growing freedom means that every church session needs to decide what works best for their congregation. So, for instance, some churches are worshiping indoors now, some are worshiping outdoors, some are thinking about mid- to late July for a transition, and many are doing hybrid worship, so that our church members can worship together, whether or not they are able to come to the church campus. Your session has the freedom and the responsibility to determine the most faithful way to be church in these changing circumstances.

We have a Presbytery meeting coming on June 19. Because this meeting was set to be online, we are opting to turn our annual Day of Service into a Day of Empowerment and Engagement. I think of it as a miniature teach-in. The meeting will be a morning of business, an update on County guidelines on COVID-19, worship and fellowship, and some exciting looks forward in our immigrant accompaniment ministry and opportunities to deepen our intercultural relationships and anti-racism initiatives. It should be a great morning. You can register now—and you don’t have to be a voting commissioner to attend. The meeting starts at 9:00 am.

Of many different ways we can be a more anti-racist presbytery, one topic that has been compelling to several Presbytery leaders is the question of reparations. This is an extremely complex topic, and we have thought about focusing on specific situations to explore the different elements involved.

One situation that might be studied is the Tulsa massacre from 100 years ago. The Tulsa massacre is one of 25 massacres of African Americans that have been perpetrated since the end of the Civil War —a part of American history that is rarely taught in school.

The Tulsa massacre offers a glimpse into the complicated history of race in the United States. I do not have room in this column to explore all of it, but part of the history includes the trials experienced by the Native Americans who first encountered European immigrants (undocumented, to be sure) to what is now the United States. Because they attempted to assimilate to the practices of the settlers, they were called the “Five Civilized Tribes”: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole nations. They adopted European ways, including entering into legal contracts and sometimes running their own plantations with African slave labor. But as the expansion of European- owned plantations grew, these contracts were reversed, leading to the forced removal of these nations to the Indian Territories, which is now Oklahoma. From 1831 to 1847, it is estimated that about 58,000 Indigenous persons were removed, and 10,000 died en route. There were approximately 4,000 enslaved Africans who were also brought to Oklahoma. By the way, there were Presbyterian missionaries who worked with these peoples, who also came to Oklahoma.

The Five Tribes generally sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War, so after the war there were negotiations that led to emancipation of the slaves. The freed slaves (freedmen) became members of the tribes with equal rights, which resulted in the freedmen becoming landowners, contributing to the economic strength of the African-Americans in Tulsa, before the 1921 massacre.

As I was exploring this history, I randomly chose to look into the history of the Choctaw nation, who happened to be the first to leave. I stumbled onto a report that in 1867, just 16 years after they were dislocated and suffered massive death and starvation along the way, the Choctaw took up a collection and sent $170 (over $5,000 in today’s dollars) to Ireland, to help the people starving from the potato famine. The money donated by the Choctaws was distributed in Ireland by members of the Quaker community. Thus began a relationship between the Choctaw and Irish peoples that continues today.

To mark the 150th anniversary, eight Irish people retraced the Trail of Tears, and the Kindred Spirits memorial by sculptor Alex Pentek was unveiled in Midleton, County of Cork. In 2018, Ireland announced a new scholarship program to allow Choctaw students to travel to and study in Ireland. And since the spring of 2020, Irish people have raised over $1.8 million in response to a GoFundMe appeal from the Navajo and Hopi nations who were hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.  (If you follow the link to the

GoFundMe page, you’ll see they are still accepting donations—and you can read the heartfelt comments from Irish donors who continue to give.) Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, wrote that the tribe was “gratified — and perhaps not at all surprised — to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations… We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine. We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”

There is much hidden in history for which much has to be confessed, and which call for reparations. But there is also much that can be raised up and honored. We weep as the Indigenous peoples of this land have been almost erased, yet we see how powerful it is when those who have suffered can show empathy for others—and how resilient is their act of generosity. May we account for and reconcile for past sins, and learn from the grace and generosity and gratitude of those who have much to teach us.

May there be a time for all of us to recount long relationships between peoples that have nothing in common except for our common humanity.

In Christ’s peace,

Wendy

 

Mothers

Mothers

Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Luke 8:21

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. For those who are mothers, I hope you feel loved and appreciated. For those whose mothers are with you, I hope you are able to see them or contact them in some way to share your love and gratitude. For those whose mothers have passed on, I hope you have many fond memories to remind you of her love that lives in and through you.

The greatest experiences I have had of God’s grace came as I dedicated my life to God’s service, especially while I was in seminary. Of course, God’s grace abounds whether or not we are aware of it. For instance, my family tells how I suffered nerve damage while being born, and I was initially paralyzed along one side of my body. My mother’s ob/gyn was a woman who told my mother about an experimental technique of moving the paralyzed limbs several times a day in hopes that the nerves would kick in and I would develop control of my body. According to my mother, the doctor said, “You might as well try it. She’s already paralyzed, so what will it hurt?” My mother did try with her usual focused attention, and for whatever reason I recovered, so I personally knew nothing of this crisis in the first days of my life. Since I heard this—seminary had a way of giving me permission to ask about my history—I began to see my right thumb, which is longer than my left, as evidence of God’s grace, manifested through my mother.

There is nothing more basic to life itself than the relationship of mother and child. Yesterday I heard a sermon based on the lectionary passage John 15:1-8 (“I am the vine, you are the branches”), and I thought about the sap that runs through plants, bringing nutrients as the plant grows, as similar to the life force that runs from mother to child, first in the womb, then through mother’s milk, and through all the ways a mother gives nurture, growth, learning, faith, and so much more.

Of course, while the Bible often uses metaphors from the physical world, God’s love is much greater than God’s creation. So while all forms of family relations, the skeletal system of the body, and a monarch’s rule are examples of the basics of life on earth, Jesus calls us to transcend their mortal limits. The body is now all of us, bound by common love of Jesus Christ. The rule of an earthly king is temporal and faulty compared to the eternal realm of our Lord. And we can be family together— we are mandated to be family together—by our common kinship as God’s children.

For those of us who were not blessed to have children or to have siblings or a sense of belonging, this is good news. We do not need to have biological connections to be family. We do not need to have gone through pregnancy and labor to be as mothers to others. In fact, while the Bible attests to Jesus’ love for his mother throughout his life, even arranging for her care while on the cross, he extends this love to anyone who hears the word of God—and does it. So we all have the opportunity to show that kind of life-giving, nurturing care that was traditionally considered the work of mothers.

We are entering a time when gender roles and even identities are questioned in interesting ways. Recently I was speaking with one of our pastors, who has three children, and though he is male, he carries out the more “maternal” responsibilities as the primary caregiver. And while the expansion of gender roles is discussed more frequently in these modern days, the role of mother can be claimed by anyone, as far back as Jesus’ teaching.

Back in the 14th century, German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote “We are all meant to be mothers of God.” Now this sounds pretty darn challenging and downright heretical (and granted, some of Eckhart’s writings were deemed heretical), but be careful of misleading editing. Here is a little more of what he wrote:

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time.  When the Son of God is begotten in us.

Jesus pointed to his disciples as his mother and brothers and sisters. We have been given the call, the mandate, to bear the gospel, the mission, of Jesus Christ to our world. And many if not all of us can point to individuals who have been like mothers to us, as they have cared for us, nurtured the spark of life in us, and helped connect us to God and to our world. May we all find ways to be like mothers— mothers to people who need that extra care, mothers who nurture the potential in friends and church members, mothers to God’s dream of tomorrow.

Blessings to all of us, as we hear and do God’s word to be mothers for all who need the love and care that mothers bring. For those whose motherly role is more present and pressing, may you be supported by your family of faith as well as all your larger family connections. Your role as mother to the next generation will change the world.

Thanks be to God!

Wendy

 

Fear of Joy

Fear of Joy

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Luke 24:36-37

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!!

It is generally understood that the death and resurrection of Jesus occurred around 30 AD, which means that we are coming up on a full 2,000 years of looking back on this world-changing event and saying, “Alleluia!  Christ is risen!!”

With that time and repetition, churches often labor to find ways to make the Easter story “fresh.”  It is difficult for us to understand the number of times throughout the Bible that we humans responded to the saving actions of God with fear.  The friends of Jesus responded to his resurrection not with joy and potted lilies, but with fear—in this passage, they were startled and terrified at the very sight of the risen Christ.  Their fear evolved into joy and disbelief at the sight of his wounds, and they didn’t settle into belief until they saw him eat a nice piece of broiled fish.

This mix of fear and wonderment seems to pervade our world today.  We feel the hope that vaccinations bring, as we are hearing of the drastic drop in COVID cases and deaths among our senior population, especially in residential communities that experienced real terror in the face of this pandemic.  Seniors are able to see and hug loved ones after a year of isolation, and as vaccines are becoming available to all adults, hope is springing up that we will once again go out to eat, travel, see a baseball game, and actually go—not just log in—to church.

But with these signs of hope come signs of concern.  After a truly horrible winter, California is now seeing the best statistics in the country—but we must always be wary, because states like Michigan and Europe show us how quickly another surge can rise up.  At the same time, every day we are hearing of mass shootings (where four or more individuals have been shot, not necessarily fatally), too often persons are being treated with excessive force by police, and there is massive confusion about safe practices for newly-opening businesses, schools, and churches.

For some months I have anticipated post-pandemic stress rising up as the crisis subsides.  What I have noticed even in myself is that this stress will not show up in nicely rational and scheduled bouts of sadness, but in unpredictable moments of irritability or fatigue.  I have heard of teachers having to rearrange their schedules to go back into school even though their own children are still learning from home, and pastors and church leaders trying to figure out how to go “hybrid” in their worship.  As protocols and research continue to evolve, I have found it irritating that one LA County public health doctor has taken to answering questions about re-opening protocols with “use your common sense”—which I’ve decided is a veiled way of saying “I don’t know anymore than you do what to do.”

So what do we do?  Last week I shared some baseline thoughts, and I am hoping that the Executive Commission will have guidelines next week, that we can discuss via Zoom on April 22nd, 7-8:30 pm.  

I am reminded of the confusion a year ago, because there is still much uncertainty.  I also want to remember the clear evidence of God’s care and creativity showing up in our lives.  And I want to reiterate some basic reminders:  Consider the essentials.  Care for the vulnerable.  Be gentle with yourself, and with others.  Trust God.  As Paul writes in Romans 12, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  And if it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  We have lived through this season of death, and we will live into this new life—together.

Peace, Wendy

 

Winterfest 2021 Plenary Saturday, February 6

Winterfest 2021 Plenary Saturday, February 6

Winterfest 2021 Plenary Saturday, February 6

Rev. Bruce Reyes Chow

An Unexpected, Generous, and Hybrid Table

I will be looking at what it will take to build a hybrid future: skills, offerings, and resources.

There are no silver linings from the COVID19 Pandemic. Too many people have died, too many people are now struggling with day-to-day survival, and too many people’s futures have been left in turmoil and doubt. This season in the life of humanity has been simply put, awful.

At the same time, during this time, churches have stepped into spaces that many would have never imagined they could. Congregations have answered the call to fight for social justice and institutional accountability; they have given resources of time, space, and prayer; and they have served, fed, and clothed those in need. In a time when all of our actions have been magnified through the lens of the pandemic, many churches have adapted in amazing and faithful ways.  

This shift may not be more evident in any other area than worship. Communities have adapted to online spaces for worship, meetings, pastoral care, conferences, and more. It has not always been easy and not everyone thrives in this setting, but congregations have, across denominations, risen to the challenge in diverse and creative ways.
While there is no single, best way for people to gather for worship, as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel begins to shine and the conversation about “going back” begins in earnest, the question for many congregations is this, “Once online worship is no longer the only option for you and your congregation, will you all have the willingness, energy, and capacity to birth, curate, nurture, and sustain a long-term digital space?” or more succinctly put, “What now?”

Our “hybrid” future, should we choose to build this future, will undoubtedly be fraught with obstacles and struggles. But . . . if we take this path of discernment seriously, openly, and honestly, the possibilities for impact and growth by being “hybrid” might just surprise us.

 

 

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