Hands Held High

by | Jun 26, 2017

I have noticed that we are in an exciting season, as churches are making significant decisions that will impact their ministry into the future. As they consider new journeys into an unknown future, I am reminded of the Exodus. I lift up to you the little story of how God empowered Moses to lead the Israelites as they fought Amalek-but Moses got tired, so he needed his partners to help him. This is the essence of what it means to be a presbytery-that we help each other in ministry, as individuals and as churches. So I ask you to lift up to God the following events in prayer.

After five years of trial, Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church will be welcoming Rev. John Moon as their new pastor, to be installed August 6, at 4:00 p.m. This church has experienced denunciation by their former pastor, and years of legal and interpersonal turmoil, and are attempting to rebuild with a determined core of leaders. Churches that have gone through a painful split with the pastor and conflict within do not survive unscathed, so I ask that you pray regularly for Rev. Moon and for the church as they connect with each other and seek to serve Jesus and the people Jesus loves, even as wounded healers.

As you probably know, there have been countless leaders who have contributed time and wisdom to Korean Good Shepherd over the years. One key leader is Rev. David Won. Last week, Rev. Won was hospitalized briefly, then jumped back into ministry, even leading a meeting just this last Saturday in Rowland Heights. But Rev. Won will need a stent to be placed in a clogged artery, either this or next week. Please pray thanksgiving for his help, and hope that God will watch over the procedure and Rev. Won’s recovery.

This coming Sunday, Mideast Evangelical Church will be worshiping in their new home in Temple City. There will be some kinks to be worked out for sure-the biggest concern is that the air conditioning in the sanctuary needs to be replaced, so please pray that the temperature in the next two Sundays is, say, 25 degrees cooler than yesterday, especially when they worship at 1 :30 p.m.! But their energy is great, and positive, and I am hopeful that this will be a boon to their loving and growing ministry.

Many of our churches are being very intentional about discerning their future ministries, and they are asking the Presbytery for help. So we will be forming several ministry teams, working in various capacities with churches, as requested by their sessions. These teams will take different forms and have different focus areas, depending on what the church sessions identify as their hopes and needs, and the Presbytery’s wisdom as COM considers their requests. My prayer is that God will lead us to the people best suited to work with these various churches, and that the people will make themselves available for this important work of the Presbytery.

One ministry team that had been developed almost two years ago worked with Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The team completed their work and has since disbanded, but I believe they played an important part as PPC reviews their ministry and their administration for mission. This coming month, PPC is preparing to install Rev. Walter Contreras as their Spanish-language pastor on July 23 at 2:30 p.m. They are also getting ready to call their Korean-language pastor-which means that for the first time in many years, PPC will have two installed pastors. They are also doing incredibly important work in strengthening their leadership infrastructure, and developing a common vision for ministry as one church. Thanks to the faithful leaders of that church, and the interim work of Rev. Ann Oglesby-Edwards, and to Rev. Tom Erickson, who helped reestablish the church’s confidence that God will be with them as they go forward in faith.

I have spoken with two churches about using the New Beginnings process to help them embark on a new chapter in the life of their churches. You may have heard that we don’t do New Beginnings anymore, but what the PC(USA) did is to partner with the Disciples-who developed the New Beginnings process-to continue to support churches who want to use the resource. The person who did the administration for the PC(USA), Michael Whitman, is still the person working with PC(USA) churches doing New Beginnings. The cost is now $5,500 if a church does it alone, or $3,500 per church if two or more want to join a cluster. The churches follow the process separately, but the savings come because the trainings can be done jointly and the assessor can meet with multiple churches on one trip. The Presbytery still can provide $2,000 towards this fee thanks to the Synod stimulus fund, if the church hasn’t already used their share in the past.

New Beginnings is not perfect, nor will it give you instant answers about your future ministry, but I still believe it is a cost-effective way to get data about the neighborhood and for all church members to give input in an organized fashion, and many of our churches have made significant decisions after going through the process in the past. Let me know if you are interested in this program, as we are hoping to start with at least two churches this September.

As a presbytery, our job is to support each other as we seek to follow Christ in worship and service. I am greatly encouraged that many of our churches are taking bold steps to transform their ministries, and I am humbled that they are asking for their sisters and brothers of the presbytery to walk with them. I ask you to pray for our churches, their leaders, and those who will know Christ through them. Here is a prayer that comes from the Presbyterian Book of Occasional Services that lifts up our churches and reminds us why God called us together:

Gracious God, pour out your Spirit of power and truth upon the whole church, that we may be for you a holy people, baptized to serve you in the world. Sustain the church in ministry. Ground us in the gospel, secure our hope in Christ, strengthen our service to the outcast, and increase our love for one another. Show us the transforming power of your grace in our life together, that we may be effective servants of the gospel, offering a compelling witness in the world to the good news of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

May it be so, in your church and in all our churches,