See you in September
God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.
1 Corinthians 12:24b-25
It’s truly uncanny how any memory of life in the last two years includes at least one “hey, COVID” moment, when our original plans were changed due to the COVID pandemic. This happened to all of us, even if we were not directly impacted by COVID. Of course we can never forget the great loss sustained by those who lost loved ones, or whose health has been seriously compromised by the virus. But everywhere we look, people’s lives changed. Some retirements were delayed, and others were started earlier than expected. Trips were canceled, major projects delayed, jobs were changed or lost. Seminarians had internships when they never once physically met the church members they served, and new pastors got to know their members via Zoom.
But some goals were accomplished in spite of the challenges. For instance, we were planning a presbytery trip to Korea, and Dongwoo Lee was on the planning team. We canceled the trip, but Dongwoo and I started wondering recently if we could pick up the plans for 2023. However, he has since become a PhD and a bestselling author, so he may be a professor outside our presbytery next year. (I told him he had to come anyway.) Lisa Hansen earned her EdD while pastoring Pasadena Presbyterian, caring for her parents, and witnessing her father’s entry into the church triumphant.
Some life events have been delayed or changed. Our friend and colleague Bill Van Loan died a year ago today, and three COVID surges later we were able to hold a memorial service for him on Saturday. Though the service was delayed, the love and memories were still very current. For instance, we all remembered how Bill was so ready to meet his Lord, and people who have known Bill for decades were able to tell the many ways he has made a lasting impact on them. Memories of his innovative singles ministry at the Arcadia church were shared, and I spoke about my gratitude for Bill’s work as trusty Secretary for the Presbytery corporation, and more importantly his leadership in advocating for the chaplaincy program we have with our retired church workers.
Throughout the service, I felt the blessing that God has given so many Monte Vista Grove residents, the blessing of long and faithful marriages. Bill’s wife Judy Post shared on behalf of the family, Larry and Judy Ballenger led us in hymn singing, and I got to catch up with Mas Hibino, whom I’ve known since I was a child and whose wife died from cancer after many decades of marriage. But the most precious memory of the day for me was coincidental. Rebecca Thompson played a piano piece for the service, which was nice enough, but it was a delight to watch Dean Thompson leaning forward, eager to watch his wife play, looking as if he was witnessing a miracle—and perhaps their lifelong partnership in love, life, and ministry is a miracle, like so many loving marriages.
So, even though COVID is not done with us yet, life in the Lord continues on, in spirit if no longer in the flesh. But for those of us who are in Los Angeles County, there’s a good chance that we will be required to wear indoor masks again starting this Friday, so churches, please get out your “masks required” signs again. Whether they reinstate the mask mandate or not, the positivity rate is between 16% and 40% (hard to count, since many people test at home)—and many people getting infected are struggling. So please be cautious, especially with the singing and long indoor meetings.
For myself, I have been trying to utilize the sabbatical leave offered me through our presbytery guidelines, since I started working with San Gabriel Presbytery eight years ago. Because travel is still uncertain, I’ve decided to take only the month of August off, and then I hope to take January 2023 off as well. There is a program in Jerusalem that is normally scheduled for January of each year, and if all goes well, I hope to participate in 2023.
I am happy to go now, because one of the great blessings of this last year is the excellent partnership and giftedness that Ally Lee and Sam Bang bring to the presbytery. So I am very comfortable and grateful that I can leave the support of the presbytery in their very capable hands. It will be nice for the body to have me, the inferior member, out of the way, so you can better appreciate the excellent staff we have, including Wendy Gist, Diane Frasher, and Steve Salyards as well as Ally and Sam.
If you need anything or have a question, you can call the office phone at (626) 614-5964, or email email@example.com. Ally usually handles the office phone, but both Ally and Sam can access this email address. (If you want to reach them directly, their emails are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.) You can contact Ally for anything related to records and polity, GA, meetings, or if you don’t know who to ask. Sam can respond to financial and property matters, and he will continue to work with the several churches he’s been supporting this last month. They work closely together, so I’m sure they will consult with each other regardless whom you contact first.
Have a wonderful month, and see you in September. Thank God for the presbytery, that we can model offering times of sabbath rejuvenation for our pastors, and for our staff, who are not only wise, knowledgeable, and faithful, but who are a joy to work with.