by | Jan 14, 2019

The Lord will guide you continually,
      and satisfy your needs in parched places,
      and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
      like a spring of water,
      whose waters never fail.          

Isaiah 58:11

Tomorrow evening is the first Presbytery meeting for 2019, at Knox Presbyterian in Pasadena.  The meeting will start with registration and snacks at 6:30 pm and the call to order will come at 7 pm.  We have heard that some people cannot come to Saturday morning meetings, so this year we have two Tuesday evening meetings and three Saturday meetings, in addition to WinterFest on February 2nd (Saturday).  Hope this will enable more people to participate!

We always try to keep the meetings as efficient and relevant as possible.  We will install our new officers Roberto Ramirez as Moderator and Karen Sapio as Vice Moderator.  Current Moderator Becca Bateman will become Chair of the Executive Commission, and we thank Fried Wilson, outgoing PEC chair.  We will hear the reflections of our General Assembly delegation—Bear Ride, Deborah Owens, and Sophia Alecci—as we look ahead to voting on constitutional amendments in April.

We will show our support for East San Gabriel Valley Coalition for the Homeless, who operates the winter shelter and provides many services for homeless people in central and east San Gabriel Valley.  And we will receive support, as we celebrate our chaplaincy for retired Presbyterian church workers, funded by the generosity of House of Rest.  House of Rest has generously agreed to fund this program for 2019 at an expanded rate, as Monte Vista Grove Homes has requested that Lauren Evans provide chaplaincy services to them as well.

We will also honor the ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park.  The Administrative Commission has been working on resolving the legal issues related to the fraudulent tenant, and helping the members to transition to another church, for now the West Covina Presbyterian Fellowship.  They have been a blessing for West Covina, and it is possible that God may bless the ministry at West Covina in other ways too, which will allow them to continue as a blessing for the West Covina community and now our sisters and brothers from the Baldwin Park church.  The AC will be presenting a report that highlights the unique and groundbreaking ministry at Baldwin Park, a community always dedicated to following Jesus’ call for us to be welcoming of all, and seekers of justice for the oppressed.  I cannot speak of Baldwin Park without thanking Melinda Forbes and Sonnie Swenston.  Melinda especially has dedicated countless hours and worries to supporting the Baldwin Park church these last few years.  My prayer is that she and Sonnie will now be able to gain spiritual renewal in a new church home.

As I look outside my window, the skies are thick with clouds and rain is coming down.  I admit that I hate rain, and when the weather looks like this I would just as soon crawl back into bed.  But I know that rain makes the earth flourish like no human irrigation system can.  (I even saw proof of this, when a previous rain shower made some little plants of mine burst forth in a way that I didn’t think possible, as apparently I had been starving them with my paltry watering.)

It’s important for me to remember that new life springs forth from times that seem dreary.  Last week I attended the memorial services for Leon Fanniel and Zac Bright, and I know there were several other memorial services in our community last week.  As we consider the ending of Baldwin Park’s ministry, and the lives of bright lights like Leon and Zac, the human response is to mourn their loss, and to miss their presence in our lives.  But at Zac’s memorial, I felt this peace, and even as several speakers remembered the complexity and brilliance of Zac’s mind and faith, I sensed the deep love that Zac had for the Lord and for his family, which seemed to be expressed best in music.  Finney Premkumar gave the homily at Zac’s service, and offered a helpful quote which has been attributed to Methodist Bishop Warren Chandler, who did not fear crossing the river from life to death because “I belong to a Father who owns the land on both sides of the river.”

I was in a meeting yesterday with leaders of a church that has gone through great transformation.  But there have definitely been struggles with this transformation, and I mentioned that even in the best of changes, people can’t help but grieve what once was.  So as we remember the people and the churches of the past, as we look at gray skies and flowered caskets, may we look to the other side of that river, and give thanks that God is the God of all, and in God, rainy days can yield to glorious springtime, and death leads to eternal life.  Thanks be to God.

See you tomorrow,