News from the Family

by | Mar 13, 2023

I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. Genesis 22:17

Lent is a season when we are reminded of our mortality. Many of us started the season at an Ash Wednesday service where someone put ashes on our forehead and said something foreboding like “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (though some happy Christians can’t help but add something like “God can make amazing things out of dust!”).

So perhaps it was fitting that this last week we heard of a few colleagues and friends—members of that large clan God promised to Abraham and Sarah—who have left this mortal plane and gone home to God. One person was Rev. Dr. Burton Mack, long-time and beloved professor at Claremont School of Theology. I regret that we were not aware of his passing until his wife contacted us a year after his death, which was March 9, 2022. His obituary can be found at mack/. He was a New Testament scholar whose several published works reflect a forward-thinking and insightful mind all the way to the end.

More recently we heard of the passing of Rev. Dr. Cyris Heesuk Moon, on March 5, 2023. I knew Cyris when I first came back to California, as he was a strong and active leader at SFTS. Cyris was a pioneer among the Korean church in the PC(USA), and was also a published scholar, sharing the Koreans’ faith story and God’s concern for the minjung with the wider church.

Then we heard that our Presbytery attorney Kay Gustafson died on Saturday, March 11, 2023. Kay was very private, so did not let on about the seriousness of her health condition until just last month, but she had been battling colon cancer for almost a year. Kay was an ever-present and committed legal counsel for the Synod of Southern California and Hawai‘i and most of the presbyteries here. She was uniquely gifted for her dedication and diligence, and her love and knowledge of both civil law and Presbyterian polity. I would freely give her contact information to any of our churches who had a legal question, because as a faithful ruling elder, she would give her advice to any church that asked without charge, and even when she did charge for her services, she did so at a discounted rate. Kay was so dependable that I started to worry only after she had to cancel her regular session at our recent WinterFest. Though I didn’t dare ask her, I liked to think Kay and I had a lot in common, and we did quite a bit of work together on any manner of issues on behalf of Christ’s church. Our love and prayers go to Kay’s children and her husband, Rev. Curtis Webster, who is pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Ontario. You may know Curtis, who has been an interim specialist and, as interim pastor of Michillinda Presbyterian here in Pasadena, helped to bring about the merger that resulted in New Hope Church.

Yesterday, we had a baby dedication at Interwoven. (For those who are wondering—there might be a couple of you—I was consulted about this. While today, we Presbyterians would not encourage baby dedications in order to dissuade a family from baptizing their child, I am not aware of forcing a baptism on a family who are not prepared to present their child for the sacrament.) As I watched the joy of the gathered family—family of blood, choice, and faith—I couldn’t help but feel the bittersweet tone of the moment, because the baby’s aunt (the sister of the baby’s mother) died suddenly last year. As we celebrated this new life coming into our very large clan of Christians, I had this glimpse of what God sees in the descendants of Sarah and Abraham: young and old, living on earth and in heaven, a beautiful collection of beloved people of every kind of circumstance, gathered forever by the loving spirit of God. Mortal as we are, in Christ we are forever—forever alive, forever in love, forever one. Thanks be to God.