Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3-4
Happy New Year!
2019 is but a week old now, but more than usual, this new year is rooted in the year past. While some years I can start the year with a clean slate, clean house, and a list of unbroken resolutions (for a few hours at least), I enter this year with memories of dear ones who have passed, and . I have also been busier with work than usual. I have joked that in Presbytery work, the holidays are quiet times because the pastors are busy earning their keep by preaching (so I am not needed for pulpit supply), and the church folk are busy planning their holiday events to get into a conflict. But this year, we have had several pastorates end. Jim Conner has left Arcadia Community Church, Walter Contreras has left Pasadena, Ken Tracy finished his contract with St. Andrew’s in La Puente, and Jake Kim finished his contract with Northminster in Diamond Bar. One of the most important roles for a Presbytery is to help churches secure faithful and effective pastoral leadership, so we have been busy not only working with these churches but also supporting the many new pastors who have joined us this past year.
As we begin this new year, I see many different streams of activity in Presbytery life, almost like the marbling that happens when different colors of paints are swirled together. We have had several loved ones pass away, so we sorely feel the loss of Leon Fanniel and Zac Bright, as well as Mariko Yanagihara’s father and Margarita Reyes’ mother and others. Some churches are saying good-bye to their pastors while others are embarking on new adventures, such as First Thai Presbyterian Church wanting to change their name to Praise Community Church, as they have become a faith community for all their Covina neighbors. Many of the Baldwin Park folks are worshiping with the West Covina Fellowship, and we continue to work on pastoral leadership and a partnership with International Theological Seminary that could prove to be a huge blessing for all involved. Westminster in Temple City has found new leadership and new energy to evangelize their neighbors. And Pasadena, having developed a new mission study that deepens their multicultural commitment into their confirmed identity as an intercultural church, will soon begin to search for an installed pastor/head of staff.
I had the opportunity to celebrate Epiphany with Northminster yesterday, and I commented on the discomfort we feel facing an unknown future. (Ironically, we ALL face an unknown future, but sometimes it seems more uncertain than at other times.) As the wise men were told, sometimes we have to take another road, and it can be scary to take that unknown path. But even if we don’t know WHAT is ahead of us, we can be assured that we always know WHO is ahead of us. Our faith is in God who loves us so much as to care for us throughout history, come to us as Jesus to live with us and die for us, and lives now and forever in and around us, calling us forth into mission, strengthening us for the journey, and walking with us every step of the way.
We can see how new life is rooted in the past, and that it is only as a grain of wheat dies does it bear much fruit. So as we go forth into 2019, let us give thanks for all who have brought us to this place, let us reach out to those who struggle and grieve, and let us always be emboldened in the knowledge that our risen Christ, who defeated death, calls us forth to serve and share the good news of hope and love. Let us walk together as partners, even sisters and brothers, in Christ.
Blessings for the year ahead,