Juneteenth: Bearing the Seed

by | Jun 19, 2023

Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 126:6

Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the order, issued by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. This holiday is a celebration of freedom from oppression, though the deliverance was delayed; President Abraham Lincoln had announced the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, set to go into effect on January 1, 1863. But even though the joy was delayed, and set within the context of suffering, Psalm 126 reminds us that our faith enables us to see how God can nurture the seeds of hope even during times of weeping. This psalm also assumes that we do not sit by and wait for God to bring us the fruits of liberation, but we participate in the deliverance through our work. In my opinion, Juneteenth is a remembrance that God works through us as we strive towards freedom, even when this broken world subjects us to injustice. And through Christ’s grace, we are freed to serve and reach out to others who struggle.

This last Saturday, we had a short but important Presbytery meeting. Thanks to the people of Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church, especially elders Ellery Atienza, Rosie Zachow, and Carolyn Harris, for welcoming us to their campus. And I failed to formally introduce and thank Amy Marmol, who has joined the Presbytery staff as Administrator; she has already been publishing the Monday Morning Updates and was a terrific organizer for this, her first presbytery meeting! Thanks to Ally Lee, who recruited Amy to the job (and prayers for Ally and her family, as they journey to Georgia this week). Thanks also to our Vice Moderator Rev. Peter Tan-Gatue, who ably moderated the meeting as Moderator Pat Martinez-Miller celebrates her daughter’s wedding.

There were two significant decisions made on Saturday. First, we celebrated with the people of First Presbyterian Church, Altadena, as the Presbytery approved their call to Rev. Elizabeth Wang as their new pastor. We also honored the ministry of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in La Puente, as the Presbytery voted to close the congregation. Rev. Deidra Goulding, co-pastor of Shepherd of the Valley and moderator of the St. Andrew’s administrative commission, shared some thoughts about the ways that St. Andrew’s has been a blessing for the members, who in turn have been so generous to their community. Elder Carolyn Pecho, who serves on the session of Puente de Esperanza Presbyterian Church, shared how she grew up at St. Andrew’s and has been blessed by them over many years.

The focus for our worship was God’s call for us to share our blessings with those neighbors who are living without the protection of housing. We received a survey that the Justice Peacemaking and Mission Committee developed in hopes of learning how the Presbytery can support churches as we all seek to be God’s blessing to our communities. Thanks to JPM members Patrick Perry and Rev. Vikki Randall, who spoke of this call to walk with people who are unhoused. The offering is going to Friends in Deed, who offers multiple programs for our neighbors in need. You can still participate in the survey by clicking here, and you can give to Friends in Deed by going to the Presbytery website, https://sangabpres.org/donate/, for one more week—in the first drop-down, go to “Give to Presbytery Offering” so your gift gets applied correctly.

Our Day of Service was wonderful! Many folks went out to the Wild Yards native plant garden, and learned a tremendous amount from Matt Teutimez about the knowledge with which his native people of this area, the Tongva/Kizh, used herbs for medicinal purposes. Others gave some loving care to the Eagle Rock campus, and folks from several churches met with John Oh and Bert Newton of Making Housing and Community Happen as we seek to utilize the property God has entrusted to us, that our churches may be a place of welcome and healing for our neighbors. And we were overwhelmed with the generosity of so many churches who contributed to hygiene kits for patients of Los Angeles General Medical Center (aka LAC+USC) who are unhoused. We quickly filled up 140 hygiene kits, with many items left over, which we will take to Angel Interfaith Network, the group providing support to patients and their families that was founded by this presbytery!

As people of faith, we know that God stays with us in times of trouble, and we know that even in the depths of trial, God plants seeds of hope. So many of us have seen how God sows compassion when we experience trials, and we receive blessings in order to be a blessing to others. We also know that we grieve what is no longer, like when a church closes, though we have also seen how new life can spring forth. Our Presbytery family exemplified all that on Saturday—celebrating new ministry, saying good-bye to others, and praying that God will lead us to see possibilities for the future that we cannot create or even imagine by ourselves. May we continue to live as people of hope and faith, especially when we encounter folks who so need to know that God loves them. May we reflect the grace of Jesus Christ who has delivered us; that is how we carry forth our sheaves with shouts of joy!

We can continue to put our hands and heart to work, as soon as this coming Saturday, June 24. This is the first public event coming out of our partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the City of Baldwin Park, as we utilize our Baldwin Park church property to be a home and source of security that will transform families for many years to come. Come join us! You can find more information in the MMU, or go to San Gabriel Valley Habitat to sign up.