Sharing in the Ministry

by | Oct 22, 2018

They voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.

Corinthians 8:3-4

Time seems to be moving quickly these days.  After what seemed like an endlessly hot summer, we are now looking ahead to the final Presbytery meeting of the year, which is planned for November 10 at First Thai Presbyterian Church.  That’s less than three weeks away!

At the November meeting we try to have a budget for the coming year, and a slate of nominees for Presbytery officers and committees.  We are on track for this, and we will be moving the necrology to November.   We have done this in January in past years, but it works nicely as we can have a “Communion of the Saints” service closer to All Saints Day, as we remember not only the pastors who have passed away this year, but also we give an opportunity for other church leaders to be remembered as well.

The 2019 budget will look somewhat different, as the Presbytery now uses property more actively to support several of our churches, and the Presbytery mission.  In addition, there will be a change in the Presbytery staff, because—take a breath—Twila will be going to half-time in July of next year.  The plan will be for her to focus on bookkeeping, which has grown in volume and complexity with the additional properties.  Come this spring we will need to look for someone to serve as Administrator and Associate Stated Clerk.  We are grateful that Twila will continue to be with us, so she can provide her expertise and organizational history for the transition.

What does this mean for your church?  The Presbytery Executive Commission (PEC) will be recommending to the Presbytery that the apportionment of Shared Mission Giving will be $69 in 2019.  This is $1, or 1.5%, more than last year, even though GA’s per capita was raised $1.22, and inflation is running around 4%.

This is not because the Presbytery is making a profit somewhere else, but an attempt to keep from causing a sharp increase in shared giving for the churches.  The difference will be funded by Presbytery reserves, or from the sale of the South Hills property (net of the amount reserved for a new church start as a legacy for South Hills).  We have also increased the shared mission budget, in hopes that our churches will consider increasing their giving.  Some of our churches cut their giving during the recession, but never restored it now that the economy is booming.  Let’s hope you can increase your participation in the Presbytery mission next year.

As the PEC discussed this, a member who works at Fuller asked whether others besides the churches can contribute to shared mission giving.  I said anyone can contribute!  And Twila mentioned that if you go to the website, you’ll see the word ‘DONATE” on the home page, which allows anyone to give to the Presbytery on-line.  And yes, in past years there have been individuals who have given directly to the Presbytery’s shared mission.  (Some have even given by check.)

In fact, I mentioned that in some other presbyteries, the minister members are invited to participate in the shared mission.  Some use the per capita as a guideline; many give more than that.  Some minister members consider the Presbytery as their “church” though I don’t know of anyone who fully tithes to the Presbytery.

However, the day after the PEC meeting, a PEC member did contribute—to the tune of $2,000!  What a wonderful and supportive response.  While I have given each year to the Presbytery, I am accepting this unspoken challenge and will match that gift.  And though you may not be prepared to give at this level, it will be appreciated if individuals choose to show support for our shared ministry in this way.

This gift from the PEC member is a tangible expression of what I have heard about the Presbytery’s ministry, that we are more active in supporting our churches, and in joining together in mission.  In 2018 so far, the presbytery has worked with 13 churches in various kinds of pastoral transitions, 9 churches on property and legal issues, 5 in conflicted situations, and 2 churches who are taking different approaches to understanding their denominational connections.  We have 5 administrative commissions and a sixth on the way—and while most people shudder at the thought of an AC, our ACs have been what they were meant to be—a way for the presbytery to provide focused and committed resources to work with a church on something the church can’t do by themselves.  I continue to be impressed and grateful for the work of the ACs.

In mission beyond our congregations, we continue partnerships with La Casa de San Gabriel, LAC+USC Medical Center, Living Waters for the World in Peru, and we celebrate and support the work of Community Presbyterian El Monte and Puente de Esperanza as they reach out to their immigrant communities.  We have a growing partnership with International Theological Seminary as well as Fuller and New Theological Seminar of the West.  Our 2019 Presbytery offerings have supported a church rebuilding in Joquicingo, Mexico; Pomona Hope’s Community Garden; the ministry of Ryan and Alethia White and the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin; the Door of Hope as they help families keep their housing; and this November we will support Inland Valley Hope Partners; a multi-service agency in the Inland Empire that is actively supported by several of our churches on the eastern part of our Presbytery.  As I review the budget for 2019, I estimate that one-third of our total effort (financial and staff) are focused on mission outside our member congregations—that includes our contributions to the wider church mission but does not include the presbytery offerings or the special offerings that you give through the Presbytery!

I could go on and on . . . our Tapestry Youth Collective fall camp at Big Bear begins right after the November Presbytery meeting, plans for the February 2nd WinterFest are already shaping up (do you have your church team ready?), we continue our June Presbytery Days of Service, and we were able to secure Synod grants for Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church and Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s Korean Language Ministry, accessing funds that were earmarked for Korean churches in Southern California and Hawai`i.

I am writing this column from Louisville, where I’ve been invited to participate in an Anti-Racism/Cultural Humility Facilitators Consultation.  I am especially gratified for the invitation because I have not been as actively engaged in anti-racism training as in prior phases of my life.  I am hoping that I might be able to turn back to this, now that my term with the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board has ended.  But before I do that, I get to spend the first half of November in Japan, on a mission education trip with several ministries of the Kyodan, the Protestant church in Japan.  This will also be my first opportunity to see our family’s original farmhouse, which is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site (we were silk farmers once), and I will be preaching for the first time in Kyoto (with translation, of course).  Sadly, this means I will miss the November Presbytery meeting, when you will get to hear about chaplaincy in the Navy from Lt. Daniel Menza, receive a wonderful pastoral counselor based in Alhambra, Eun-Hyey Lok, and bless mission co-workers Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson as they retire from their work in Peru.  And I will miss Steve Wiebe’s ordination and installation at PPC this November 4th at 2:30 pm, but I will get to participate in Jessica Vaughan Lower’s installation at San Marino this Sunday, October 28th, at 10:30 am.

There is so much to celebrate, give thanks for, and yes, support in San Gabriel Presbytery.  Please consider what God might be leading you to do.

Blessings, and thanks for all the ways you already participate in this Presbytery’s ministry,