Presbytery Meeting Notes
For the LORD’s anger is but for a moment;
God’s favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
After weeks of heat, smoke, ash, and flames, I stepped outside for a bit on Saturday morning and thought I was hallucinating. The air was cool and damp; in fact it was misting! It felt like a miracle, and was a wonderful reminder of God’s providence before our Presbytery meeting this last weekend.
Our Saturday meeting was our second Zoom-based meeting, and we continued to look for ways to utilize the possibilities of meeting through the internet. We were able to meet and receive Lisa Hansen, new pastor and head of staff for
Pasadena Presbyterian Church, as she was on the road on her way from Texas to California. On the suggestion of GA commissioner N’Yisrela Watts-Afriyie, we also gave people a glimpse of the first on-line General Assembly by playing videos of Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, which we played for our opening prayer and benediction.
We also experienced the video production talents of several of our younger Presbytery members such as Becca Bateman, who produced videos for the Tapestry Youth Work Week
and the upcoming WinterFest training event. As a couple of us remarked via chat, the WinterFest video made us tear up out of love and gratitude for our San Gabriel Presbytery. Ally Lee coordinated the Call to Worship, led by youth and children from several of our churches. Lauren Evans produced the Scripture readings in Korean, Arabic, Kikuyu, Thai, Farsi and German, hearing the voices of San Gabriel members and friends: Heidi Park (from Seoul), Maher Makar (from Temple City), Priscilla Ngunju (from South Pasadena), Esther Wakeman (from Chiang Mai), and Ryan White (from Berlin).
And Lauren and Jennifer Ackerman produced music videos for worship.
Several of these videos are being offered as parts of a World Communion Sunday virtual service, which will be available for churches early this week. We have enjoyed receiving musical offerings from several churches as well, so churches can choose the music they want, and all or select parts of the worship service. If you’d like to see what is available and download what you want, go to https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1J_ef_B3rZlMeA8mjF0S0eKuOTW8vJJ8N?usp=sharing.
With the WinterFest video, our Education, Equipping, and Empowerment Committee announced a new approach this coming year. Rather than one day, where attendees are limited to only two workshops, this WinterFest will be held throughout the week of February 1-6, 2021, all online. The sessions will be recorded, and saved as the beginnings of a resource library of trainings on diverse topics for church leaders. And the week culminates in a plenary celebration and worship service on Saturday, February 6. Details and registration information will be available at https://sangabpres.org/wf/
We also met several new friends who are helping us with some new initiatives. Rae Huang, lead organizer with LA Voice, described the voter education work they are doing, and the inaugural Belong Circle, a relationship-building small group approach to help us connect better across differences. We will start the first group on October 13 with a select group of leaders to “beta test” this curriculum.
Tapestry is organizing a larger Belong Circle for youth, and we are inviting young people from any of our churches to participate. Contact Ashley Roque at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
LA Voice has also played a crucial role in helping us envision an exciting new use for the site of our Baldwin Park church property. We hope to use this property for affordable housing and transitional housing for asylum seekers. We are grateful for the multiple ways our mission work is strengthened through our partnership with LA Voice, so this meeting’s offering was designated towards LA Voice; if you would like to contribute, go to https://sangabpres.org/donate/ and designate your gift “to Presbytery Offering” and we will send it to them.
Speaking of asylum seekers, Kristi Van Nostran gave an update on our Immigrant Accompaniment Ministry. What an inspiration! This past year we helped 85 people transition out of Adelanto Detention Center, and when we were able, Kristi hosted visits to Adelanto, enabling us to show our support in person. This ministry has been so effective that we received a grant from a mission partner in Claremont, and another year grant from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. This coming year Kristi will be working with San Gabriel and now Riverside Presbytery.
Of course, we heard several reports—on finances, revisions to our Presbytery Employment Handbook, Representation, and we got two excellent perspectives from GA commissioners Maria Cacarnakis and N’Yisrela Watts-Afriyie. Stated Clerk Diane Frasher announced the schedule of Presbytery meetings for 2021: in addition to WinterFest February 1-6, Presbytery meetings will be held January 26 (7 pm), March 20, June 19, September 18, and November 16 (7 pm).
We heard about the funds offered to all churches, to help alleviate the financial challenges from COVID- 19: $2,000 for every active church and fellowship, and 10 churches requesting and receiving $10,000 grants. We also heard from three of the national church agencies: René Myers on the Matthew 25 initiative at Presbyterian Mission Agency, Maggie Harmon from Presbyterian Foundation, and Mickie Choi from Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program; blessings to Mickie especially, as she will be retiring at the end of 2020. And we heard from Veronica Ota from Wyoming, who was enrolled as a CPM Inquirer, and Sam Bang, who will be starting a new worshiping community in Rowland Heights.
As our churches have learned, there are certain advantages to this technology. We are getting better attendance than in physical meetings: 150 participants on Saturday. We are able to connect with friends near and far. We weren’t able to gather at San Marino Community Church, who was scheduled to host us, but San Marino’s Jessica Vaughn Lower celebrated communion with us.
All in all, this meeting gave us inspiring glimpses into the life of our presbytery, highlighted some exciting ministries we are offering, and celebrated the connections with the larger church. In the midst of uncertainty and challenge, our churches and all levels of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are finding ways to be a beacon of hope and light for ourselves and this hurting world, a reflection of the glory of our God. Thanks be to God!
In Christ’s peace,