Rejoice Always

by | Mar 11, 2024

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

When I pastored a small rural church on the island of Kaua‘i, I once asked the church leaders about their experience after Hurricane ‘Iniki destroyed their church building and many homes. One of the elders said, “We learned that God does provide—not a moment too late, but also not a moment too soon.” He said that they would pray for something to happen (it took them ten years to raise the funds and rebuild), and they would eventually get it, but there was some uncertainty in the meantime.

We are experiencing some flux in our presbytery staff, and there is some uncertainty with the transition. Today’s Monday Morning Update is the last compiled and edited by Amy Marmol. Amy is traveling to Europe for the second half of March, and with Carrie Kohler now on board, Amy is able to go back to her several other jobs that she currently carries. Carrie will pick up the MMU (among her many skills is as a journalist), but we expect to hire another staff person to do the MMU on-going. Thanks Carrie!

I can’t say how grateful I am for Amy’s willingness to help us these last nine months. Amy is a good friend of Ally Lee, and when Ally moved to Georgia, she recommended Amy to join the presbytery staff temporarily. Amy jumped in and gave critical support with our Presbytery meetings and commissions, and the weekly MMU. Amy is a full-time high school French teacher, and also works with the founder of an international non-profit. She is married to Joshua Marmol, who was our Ruling Elder Commissioner to the 2022 General Assembly, and they have three children. Because she has so much on her plate, and since I rarely managed to meet the weekend deadline for my weekly columns (including today’s column), Amy ended up doing some of her work between midnight and 3 am! And she did the work exceptionally well, and with unfailing good will. Because Amy is an active member of Knox, she does not leave the presbytery family, but she was just the right person to step into presbytery staff work when we needed her the most. Thanks to Amy, thanks to Ally, and thanks to God for both of them!

Sam Bang is also leaving the presbytery staff effective the end of this month. Please pray for his health to be restored. In Sam’s tenure on the presbytery staff, he made a significant positive impact on several of our churches, and he has been a wonderful colleague, giving insight and encouragement to us in our various initiatives. He handled business matters for the Presbytery (and often helped churches with their business needs), such as developing a new benefits policy and helping with property tax exemption documents as well as managing the basics of payroll for the Presbytery and new worshiping communities. His deep understanding of the roots of our polity made him the “go to” person for guiding sessions on polity issues. Just last week he was thanked by name at the chartering service of GKI LA for providing crucial help to them as they met the requirements of joining the PC(USA). Like Amy, Sam continues in the Presbytery, at Northminster in Diamond Bar. Thank you Sam, and I look forward to seeing how your leadership will flower in new ways as you regain your health.

The Personnel Committee recently met with the staff and some presbytery leaders to assess how staffing might change. Carrie Kohler is very ably taking on her responsibilities as Stated Clerk for Administration, and expressed gratitude for the warm welcome she has received. We have been blessed with temporary help from Melinda Forbes and Aimee Epstein in this time of transition. While we are not settled yet, I am so grateful for all these folks and more as we strive to support the ministry of the Presbytery without disruption. Thanks to you for your patience and your prayers.

We are, of course, navigating this time of transition as the world faces wartime suffering, and the Presbytery enjoys wonderful new ministries. Live Oak Community Church in Temple City is working hard to reach out to the community, inviting all to their grand (re-)opening on Easter Sunday. I preached at First Presbyterian Church Altadena yesterday, and I could see the renewed commitment and growing faith of the members as they walk forward with their new pastor Elizabeth Wang. And several dozen of us have been meeting weekly in the “Becoming the Beloved Community” Lenten series, and the experience has been wonderful—not only content-filled, but it has been a great opportunity to come to know others in the Presbytery at a deeper level. Thanks to Tracey Shenell and the dozen small group facilitators who have provided such able and insightful leadership. And we continue to pray as a body for peace here and in Israel/Palestine. Please plan on attending EEE’s learning event, “God’s Word in God’s Land” on Saturday, March 23, 9 am—noon, that we may better understand Scripture, and what Scripture tells us about the conflict in the Holy Land.

When the apostle Paul writes to the Philippian church to rejoice in the Lord always, he is experiencing a mix of challenge and joy when he does so. Our life of faith is not devoid of struggle, and certainly as we continue through the season of Lent we are aware that Easter only comes after Good Friday. We are an Easter people, and so we can face whatever uncertainty or even difficulty with the sure hope that God and God’s plan of salvation will overcome. I do ask for your prayers as we continue to serve through these uncertain times, but I also say “Rejoice,” because there is so much to be thankful for in our congregations and fellowships, in the staff and leadership of the Presbytery, and in the life of the Presbytery as a whole.

Thanks be to God for all of you, and for God’s continuing blessing—in ways we know and ways we don’t even recognize. For in Christ we have life now, and life and love everlasting.


With thanks,