WinterFest—Presbytery Recap

by | Feb 5, 2024

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Last week, 73 people from 22 San Gabriel Presbytery churches and worshiping communities attended one or more WinterFest sessions, and 70 people from 27 San Gabriel churches and worshiping communities attended the Presbytery meeting, with about 60 people staying for the WinterFest Plenary, led by our newest pastor, Dr. Tracey Shenell. We have received positive feedback on all the sessions. What a great week! Thanks to the EEE Committee for organizing WinterFest, JPM for their excellent work on the panel “Responding to Our Unhoused Neighbors,” Tracey Shenell for her inspired leadership, Amy Marmol for her fantastic administrative support, and Northminster Presbyterian Church for being a wonderful host for Saturday.

 And, of course, thanks to all the WinterFest session leaders. We recorded the Zoom-based sessions and hope to make those available soon. Some folks provided resources that have been included in the “Resources” section of the Monday Morning Update. I will list each session, the leader(s), and whether there are resources available from the session. 

  • “New Voices Panel: pastors for the next generation” was led by Candidate Veronica Ota (FirstPresbyterian Church, Altadena), Rev. Beth Putney (San Marino Community Church), Rev. Harlan Redmond (Interwoven New Worshiping Community), and Dr. Tracey Shenell (Filipino Community United Presbyterian Church, Azusa). What an inspiring and stimulating session full of ideas,challenges, and reminders of the basis of our faith!
  • “We Are Here: Listening to the First Peoples of this Land” was led by Elder Mona Morales Recalde, of La Verne Heights Presbyterian Mona is a member of the Gabrieleño-Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, an elected commissioner with the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, and a member of our Justice Peacemaking and Mission Committee. Mona led a session last year, but even those who heard her last year were moved and inspired by her compelling presentation. Mona is able to present hard facts with enduring and hope-filled faith and grace, and reminds us that San Gabriel Presbytery is unusual in our support of our Indigenous hosts for many decades. Mona has put a variety of excellent resources on the Indigenous people,especially here in Southern California, at She also helped us with a land acknowledgement that will be used at the beginning of every Presbytery meeting; the text is in the MMU “Resources” section.
  • “Nuts and Bolts Legal Training for Church Leaders” was led by Rev. Kevin Haah, who is also an attorney. This session was chock-full of legal information in three key areas that impact most or all of our churches: Mandated Reporting, Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees and the MinisterialException, and the three forms of Property Tax Exemption. Kevin had a PowerPoint presentation which is included in the MMU “Resources” section.
  • “Panel on Responding to Our Unhoused Neighbors” was led first by Debbie Mota (Union Station), William Shelby (Friends in Deed), and Reggie Clark (Volunteers of America Pomona), and thenLisa Hansen (Pasadena Presbyterian) and Patrick Perry (Knox Presbyterian) shared their church’s responses to their unhoused neighbors. Attendees appreciated both the expertise of the people who have dedicated their professional lives to working with folks impacted by food and/or housing insecurity, and the personal perspectives of our own siblings in the San Gabriel family. This session was a response to a survey that was given last summer, when many of our folks expressed a need for training and resources as neighbors in need approach our churches. In addition to this session, the Justice Peacemaking and Mission Committee (especially Patrick Perry, Vikki Randall, and Lisa Hansen) put together a resource list (food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and other services)—that resource list is in the MMU “Resources” section.
  • “Nuts and Bolts Financial Training for Church Leaders” was led by Renato Halili, CPA, and focused on financial statements and reporting requirements, with some discussion on the new rules on restricted and unrestricted donations, property valuation, and various questions raised by the attendees. Renato shared a very thorough Treasurer’s Manual that was developed by the PC(USA) and has been updated by Presbytery of San Jose—and yes, this is now in the MMU “Resources”section.
  • “Becoming the Beloved Community: An Introduction” was led by Tracey Shenell. Even though the Presbytery meeting ended late, which compressed her time, Tracey gave the participants a taste of how the Presbytery-wide Lenten series will go. There was lively conversation and sharing, and Tracey led the session with content, compassion, and humor. The Lenten series kicks off this Saturday, February 10, 10 am-12 noon at the Presbytery Center, 9723 Garibaldi Avenue in Temple City. Everyone is welcome to come, whether or not you have registered. The Zoom-based Tuesday evening sessions begin on February 13 at 7 pm. This upcoming Saturday session is not a repeat of last Saturday, and each session builds on each other, so you will get the most out of the series if you attend every session—but if you cannot make every session, come anyway. We will be sending Zoom information soon.

And just for fun, the Education Equipping and Empowering Committee awarded $100 gift cards with Homeboy Industries to five intergenerational church teams attending WinterFest. They can be used at but better yet—go see what God is doing in downtown LA and get a great meal at Homegirl Café! Congratulations to Filipino Community United Presbyterian Church (Azusa); First Presbyterian Church, Altadena; Knox Presbyterian Church (Pasadena); San Marino Community Church; and Shepherd of the Valley (Hacienda Heights).

In our Presbytery meeting, we welcomed RE Carrie Kohler, our new Stated Clerk for Administration, commissioned Tracey Shenell to be pastor of Filipino Community United Presbyterian Church (Azusa), and welcomed back TE Tom Rennard, who has retired to Monte Vista Grove and has served in several capacities in San Gabriel Presbytery. We introduced TE Michael Roffina, who is doing a short-term fill-in at Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena, and we elected RE Melinda Forbes to the Administration and Finance Committee, Class of 2026. We installed Moderator TE Peter Tan-Gatue (Praise, Covina) and Vice Moderator RE Helen Darsie (Westminster, Pasadena), and gave thanks to outgoing PEC Moderator TE Dave Tomlinson (Retired) and new PEC Moderator RE Pat Martinez- Miller (Calvary, South Pasadena). Thanks to so many who contribute to the ministry of San Gabriel Presbytery in so many ways! In our meeting, we approved a land acknowledgement which will be read at the beginning of each San Gabriel Presbytery meeting, and I shared an adaptation of a communion liturgy for Black History Month which was written by Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown (UCC) and Rev. Amantha Barbee, a Presbyterian pastor now in Maryland. The land acknowledgement is in the MMU “Resources” section, and the communion liturgy can be found on the More Light Presbyterians website at

In a time when conflict, dislocation, and illness seems to be flaring near and far from us, this last week was a bright spot for San Gabriel Presbytery. Thanks to all who made it happen, especially our God.