Leadership and Staff Update

by | Feb 21, 2022

Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

2 Corinthians 4:1

We have gone through two years of radical change due to COVID, and as you probably have heard from the news, we are now experiencing quite a bit of change in people’s work lives. I have mentioned that several churches are entering into a time of transition, as pastors have decided to retire or take a new call. And we are entering a time of reflection for some of our Presbytery ministries as well.

The good news is that God continues to provide.  For instance, this year almost all our committees and commissions have new leadership, as chairs have either moved away or termed out, having completed the maximum six years of service. Some of these folks, like our COM and CPM chairs, have already given a huge amount to the Presbytery ministry. So please raise a prayer of thanks and blessing for:

TE Stephanie Kang, Personnel TE Sophia Eurich-Rascoe, COM
RE Jane Dempsey Douglass and TE Karen Sapio, CPM TE Roberto Ramirez, Administration and Finance
TE Brian Gaeta-Symonds and TE N’Yisrela Watts-Afriyie, Justice, Peacemaking, and Mission
RE Janice Takeda, Representation and Nominations.

I don’t think the chair for Education, Equipping, and Empowerment has been identified yet, so please pray for that also!

And though pastoral transitions can be hard and our pastor nominating process is complex, we are able to call some wonderfully faithful pastors. Please mark your calendars and join this celebration:

Installation of Rev. John Scholte
Sunday, March 13, 4 pm
Arcadia Community Church
121 Alice Street
Arcadia, CA 91006.

And please pray for all our churches as we stretch our muscles so we continue to be agile in our ministry, with a pastor, with a new or interim pastor, or without a pastor.

Our Presbytery staff is going through some changes as well. Last year we received grants that funded some of our staff positions and ministries. For instance, we received support for the LAC+USC Medical Center Chaplaincy from San Marino Community Church, enabling us to continue our partnership with three other presbyteries and the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii to fund Rev. Elizabeth Gibbs- Zehnder, the only full-time Protestant chaplain at this huge medical center that is the “safety net” for all medical needs in LA County. And we received a grant from the PC(USA) Mental Health Ministries office to offer mental health resources and education. Among other things, this grant enabled us to offer the excellent WinterFest panels and mini-retreat at the beginning of February. I continue to think this was a ground-breaking event, as we learned so much about supporting mental health for our members and friends.

Two grants funded staff positions. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) funds our Immigrant Accompaniment Ministry, helping those who are seeking refugee or asylum status in the US. This ministry was staffed by Kristi Van Nostran, who left in October to work with Latin potential house buyers. Members of the Justice, Peacemaking and Mission Committee are discerning the next phase of this ministry before we submit another grant application. Things are changing but not at the pace or form we anticipated, so we hope to see what the federal government does in immigration reform.

The second grant comes from the House of Rest and it funds our Chaplains for Retired Presbyterian Church Workers, currently filled by Revs. Lauren Evans and Diane Frasher. Five years ago, we proposed this ministry to the House of Rest, and they have been supportive funders ever since. The first Chaplain was Lauren Evans, and we have not given her enough credit for establishing this important ministry, first at Westminster Gardens, then adding Monte Vista Grove Homes, as well as helping retirees living in the larger community. Lauren has recently graduated from APU with a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and just received her Associate Marriage and Family Therapy license, and has accepted a new position in this next phase of her ministry. So she will be leaving our staff at the end of February. Diane will continue to serve as half-time chaplain at Monte Vista Grove, but we are now exploring the best use of House of Rest funds to support the well-being of our retired pastors, missionaries, and church workers. Please join me in congratulating Lauren in her accomplishment and moving full-time into her new ministry. I thank her for creating this ministry of the Presbytery, and I will miss her wit and insight on staff. And, of course, I am most thankful to House of Rest and Diane for their continuing faithful and excellent work.

Last fall, as we developed the 2022 budget, the Personnel Committee approved a move back to a half- time staff bookkeeper. We found that we are not staffed up to support a remote bookkeeping service, and the complexity of our financial management needs requires someone who can focus on our work. Last week I announced that Sam Bang has started in this ministry, and I can now give a couple more specifics. We did get approval to give Sam the title Business Manager; as one Personnel Committee member said, this reflects better the larger role he is playing. And he has a new email address:

Sam Bang, Business Manager sam@sangabpres.org

Sam has already started his role as quarter-time Associate for Ministry Development, and in fact has already been a thoughtful, faithful, pastoral, insightful presence for two of our churches who are experiencing some challenges. I am so impressed and thankful for Sam joining our staff.

As I think you can see, we have a wonderful collection of leaders and staff guiding and supporting the ministries of San Gabriel Presbytery. There are so many more people serving on committees and commissions, moderating sessions, and consulting and volunteering in so many ways. And, of course, we enjoy the leadership of Moderator Dave Tomlinson, Vice Moderator Pat Martinez-Miller, PEC Moderator Deborah Owens, our Stated Clerks Ally Lee and Steve Salyards, and Mission Advocate Wendy Gist, who has been doing phenomenal work on the Baldwin Park Habitat for Humanity project. Thank the Lord for bringing us together at this time, in this place.

With thanks,