In recent years, worship and small-group Bible study have become the focus and starting point of our presbytery meetings, setting all formal presbytery business in its proper frame.
At our February 2014 meeting, 1001 associate Vera White spoke to the presbytery about this exciting initiative to support new worshiping communities springing up across the church. Other recent speakers included Ray Jones and David Loleng from the PC(USA) office of Evangelism, who addressed the presbytery in lift up the central themes of discipleship and mission.
Teens 4 Christ, a presbytery program that develops leaders among senior high youth through a two-year course, has done far more than we could ever have imagined. The first class, who finished up their course with a mission trip to Guatemala, will continue to provide leadership in their congregations and across the presbytery and the church. A new class of budding leaders began the course in the fall of 2014.
The presbytery has helped its mission partner in Guatemala, Chisec Presbytery, break ground on a new K–12 school in the city of Coban. Chisec is a small presbytery with God-sized dreams. When the new facility is finished, it will serve also as a center for theological education in northern Guatemala.
The Presbytery of South Alabama serves 30 congregations that seek to dream dreams worthy of the God who claims us all in the love of Christ.
—Wm. Samford Turner, executive presbyter and stated clerkLet us join in prayer for:
Wm. Samford Turner, executive presbyter and stated clerk
Al Thompson, associate stated clerk
Tamara Ladnier, administrative assistant
Jenny Chapman, resource center director
Kelly Reyes, office/resource center clerk
Bonnie Johnson, bookkeeper
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
There are so many challenges that lay before us, O God. Yet you have promised to go before us and with us. Help us to move into the future we see only dimly, in the full confidence that you hold us and the future in the hollow of your hand. Help us to realize that it may be our young adults who lead us into that future as they are led by Christ, through whom we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
This is a story about faith that, though as small as a mustard seed, nevertheless moved mountains. It spans decades and generations.
The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, consisting of 81 congregations, is working on raising $11.3 million to build a new camp and conference center—Living River. The presbytery ran a fundraising campaign at Avondale Presbyterian Church, which was down to 18 elderly members far beyond the camping years. After the campaign, the session gave a $25,000 gift to help fund the new camp. Amazing!
Afterward, Avondale’s members decided to close the church. They asked the presbytery if it could sell the church and give the proceeds to help fund the camp. From the sale of their buildings, this little church gave $300,000. Unbelievable!
Members then informed the camp that the church had $34,000 left after paying all the bills and that they were giving it to fund Living River. Little did we know that the story had only just begun.
Avondale member Bette Wilson shared with Living River leadership that she was putting the camp in her will. After Bette passed away on November 20, 2012, her lawyer called Living River staff, saying, “I don’t think there is much—a small house, its contents, and a car.”
In March 2013, the Living River board determined that the camp could begin programming if it had six buildings. However, Living River would need $2 million more than the cash and pledges on hand to make this happen. The board went to work to raise the money.
In June, Living River leadership was given the details of Bette’s estate: the camp was the sole beneficiary of an estate worth more than $2.8 million. The seed for that gift was planted during Avondale’s campaign.
The Living River board had been working hard to find $2 million, but God knew where it was all along—in Bette Wilson’s estate.
—Rev. Robert S. Hay Sr., associate executive for nurture, Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, and Benga Harrison, director of development, Living RiverLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. James Ephraim Jr., member, PMA Board
Elder Richard Allen Turpen, at-large committee member, PMA Board
Rev. Elizabeth Goodrich, stated clerk
Rev. Robert S. Hay Sr., associate executive for nurture
Rev. Dan Stephens, associate executive for missional development
Linda Burrowes, office manager
Tammy Strickland, bookkeeper and program assistant
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord, we give thanks for the mustard-seed ministries of small churches. We give thanks for the life and gifts of Bette Wilson. May Living River be a place where your grace is shared and experienced for generations. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In June of 2013, Marie Marlin, a ruling elder for New Market Presbyterian Church, posted a note on the congregation’s Facebook page. According to the school nurse at New Market School, Marie said, “Some of the young children do not have underclothing, or what they have is too small or ragged to wear. They also frequently need dry changes of underwear for the younger set and are generally stranded when this happens.”
Marie concluded her post with a candid observation: “Underwear is such a simple thing; we hardly ever imagine that some of our neighbors don’t have the money to buy what they may consider a nonessential item, opting for food, outerwear, or shelter instead.”
Within minutes, Deborah Ann Miller made a contribution to the “Underwear Initiative,” and within a few days the 50-member New Market congregation had gathered over $200 in cash contributions and dozens of pairs of brand-new underwear.
As part of the 29 congregations and 4,060 believers of North Alabama Presbytery, the members and friends of the New Market congregation recognize that no gift is too small to matter, either to children in need of new underwear, or to the “very God of very God” who is our Savior, Jesus Christ.
—Brad Hall, pastor, New Market Presbyterian ChurchLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Benny Lujan, PMA
Erika Lundbom, PPC
Eternal God, as you have created us and redeemed us for your loving service, so guide us to the darkened corners in the lives of others, that we might bring them the light of your eternal presence. Grant that, as in Christ you have served us, we might serve all your children, that you may never be without a witness in a hurting world. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Over the last two years, we at Westminster Presbyterian in Hattiesburg have been on the receiving end of grace, blessings, and love. In February 2013 an F4 tornado ripped through our city, leaving an 80-mile swath of destruction. It demolished half of our 60-year-old church building and completely destroyed three homes on our campus. Our congregation, which has itself been active in mission across the United States and abroad, now found itself in a place of need.
The next day, literally hundreds of Presbyterians showed up with garbage bags and wheelbarrows to haul off debris. Every day for the next two weeks, people from all over the state came to our rescue, including a group of 150 coaches, players, and parents from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on the following Saturday. We met in our wind-blown sanctuary—its stained-glass windows had been broken in the storm—and they worked all day to clean up the mess.
In addition to their labor, friends and strangers contributed over $175,000 toward recovery efforts. And a nearby Methodist church graciously offered the use of its facilities for worship while our building was being repaired—an almost two-year process.
This widespread outpouring of support and generosity touched our hearts and reminded our congregation that when the ox is in the ditch, God’s people pull together and help each other in amazing ways.
The Presbytery of Mississippi is home to 35 congregations.
—Rev. Dr. Stephen Ramp, pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, HattiesburgLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
We thank you, O God, that nothing can separate us from your great love. We thank you for knitting us together not on the basis of bricks and mortar but through the blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus Christ. Keep us faithful, and let us not grow weary in doing good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The Nueva Vida Hispanic Presbyterian new church development (NCD) in Nashville began its ministry in January 2013. Meeting three simple but crucial needs of the Latino community—language training, child care, and fellowship—has been the foundation of our ministry.
Every While parents learn a new language, we provide care and homework help for their children. Without this ministry, adults would be unable to come to the ESL classes.
Through these ministries, we have developed many relationships. Homes have been opened for Bible classes, and all are invited to church for worship services. Thanks to God and many volunteers, we now have worship services on Our challenge is clear, and our mission is centered. We affirm ourselves by singing a Hispanic song that says, “La iglesia sigue caminando, solo se detiene para predicar” (The church keeps moving, only stopping to preach).
Hasta la vista.
The Presbytery of Middle Tennessee serves 87 congregations.
—Rev. Dr. Teddy Chuquimia, pastor, Hispanic Presbyterian NCD, NashvilleLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Melinda Lawrence Sanders, member, PMA Board
Rev. Warner R. Durnell, executive presbyter
Therese Howell, stated clerk
Barbara Howell, hunger action enabler
Linda Griffis, administrative assistant
Pat Webb, accountant
Deb Krueger, NaCoMe camp director
Young Adult Volunteers
Lillian Cleveland, Katelyn Morris, Abigail Nickle, Mary Shaw, and Kalli Watson, Nashville
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving and liberating God, with sisters and brothers from Central and South American countries right in our midst, help us to work together to advance the cause of Christ in the world today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“Hey, mister, can I have one of those hot dogs? Are they free? Can I have more than one? Why are you giving all this food away? What’s your name? Can I help you cook?” Such was the barrage of questions from my new young friend, Trell, at our church’s annual Big Lunch event. You see, here in Rochester, New York, we take the actions of Jesus as seriously as his words. On several occasions, Jesus fed hungry people. So every summer on the first weekend in June, each of the 10 congregations in the consortium we call Urban Presbyterians Together invites its neighbors over for free food, fellowship, and fun.
On this Saturday afternoon, I was working the grill, serving hot dogs and hamburgers. That’s when Trell showed up. After his barrage of questions, I let him help me. For the next two hours, Trell helped me turn hot dogs and flip hamburgers; he helped me serve food to all our neighbors. As we talked about basketball, school, family, and living in the city, Trell and I worked together. He was so excited to help. He told me, with that big smile, how good it was to give these hungry people something to eat: “I know what it’s like be hungry, so this is cool.”
It’s interesting that in John 6 Jesus doesn’t do any preaching. He just feeds hungry people. Through his actions, others see his heart and want to follow him. One of the major tasks of our urban congregations is to be good neighbors. Often that means just being a servant and making sure people are fed. May God bless us and all urban ministries as we try to follow Jesus’ example.
—Tedd Pullano: pastor, New Life Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York; convener, Urban Presbyterians TogetherLet us pray
Creator God, you are the God of the city. This day we ask your blessing on all who live and serve in your cities. May we be filled with your compassion and bring your love to all who so desperately need it. Through your Son, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
2 Sam. 11:1–15
“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
GTG 65, HB 339, PH 281
“The Foolish in Their Hearts Deny”
“O Love, How Deep,
How Broad, How High”
GTG 618, PH 83
“Lord, Speak to Me That
I May Speak”
GTG 722, HB 298, PH 426
Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri
UKirk Memphis is a new manifestation of campus ministry at the University of Memphis. Energy, passion, and joy are palpable as our college students gather for weekly Bible study and prayer. Through that study and prayer, the students became interested in giving back to churches that had supported them. So they began leading worship at nearby Buntyn Presbyterian Church, which encouraged them to create a new worship service on campus.
Still motivated to give back—and open to see how God’s Spirit moves in other parts of the world—the students enthusiastically raised money to build two water cisterns in Xpujil, Mexico. Four students helped build two 10,000-gallon cisterns in May 2014.
“Going to Xpujil was life altering,” says Elizabeth Owen. “It forced me out of my comfort zone in a million ways. It was so humbling and a huge wake-up call to see how people of a different culture and socioeconomic level live. I saw God work through our daily interactions with the families with whom we were building cisterns. We did not share a common language but were still able to interact. That was the most amazing part of the trip.”
Another student, Sheridan Sinclair, says: “It’s easy to overlook ways we experience God in everyday life, due to the constant distractions of our busy lives. I realized my life is full of noise, and I have failed to make my heart receptive to God’s voice. God’s voice isn’t a loud, booming scream but often a whisper. During the trip, I heard God’s whispers.”
The Presbytery of the Mid-South is made up of 44 congregations and their 5,607 members.
—Rev. Julie Bailey, campus minister, University of MemphisLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, thank you! Thank you for community built around your Word; for the energy, passion, and joy of college students; for clean water; for your living water. Let your abundant gifts flow freely through us, we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
First Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Elizabethtown is constantly seeking new ways to answer God’s call to compassionate and prophetic discipleship. FPC is in its seventh year of collaborating with local civic groups and operating partners in Guatemala to provide pure water through Living Waters for the World. The result: the “yoke of oppression” in the form of suffering from water-borne illnesses is being lifted from thousands of God’s people.
Its Creation Care Team leads FPC to respond to God’s first commandment to “take care of my garden” (Gen. 2:15). Recertified as an Earth Care Congregation for a third consecutive year by PC(USA) Environmental Ministries, FPC sponsors a community Earth-justice seminar, maintains a native grasslands and wildflower prairie on church property, leads an ecumenical effort to present a community Earth fair, and participates in the annual I Love Mountains Day march at the state capitol to protest mountaintop removal.
Acting on its concern for the needs of God’s people in Guatemala and caring for God’s gift of creation are just two ways FPC is attracting new people to the church’s prophetic witness and leading them to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Mid-Kentucky Presbytery is made up of 53 congregations, one new church development, and several immigrant fellowships and innovative worshiping communities.
—Rev. Skip Dunford, First Presbyterian Church, ElizabethtownLet us join in prayer for:
Jacob Parsons-Wells, corresponding member, PMA Board
Rev. Dr. Peggy Hinds, associate general presbyter
Rev. Ken Hockenberry, stated clerk
Rev. Dr. Tony Aja, coordinator for Hispanic/Latino and immigrant ministry
Mary Kutter, office administrator
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ayúdanos, Señor, a confiar que en misiones de compasión y justicia vamos a descubrir nuestros valores verdaderos y propósito. Amen.
Help us, Lord, to trust that in missions of compassion and justice we will discover our true value and purpose. Amen.
Craig Bell, director of the camp run by Holston Presbytery, mentioned that ice storms had broken limbs that were in danger of falling on campers. Bill Cox, a lifelong member and elder at Erwin Presbyterian Church, responded, “Well, I can use a chain saw!” The offending limbs were removed, and before long Betty Cox, equally passionate about our Lord’s work, was spending entire weeks working at the camp with her husband. Beautifully carved directional signs appeared. Given charge of the kitchen once, Betty rallied workers to her high standards of cleanliness and organization.
In time, Betty and Bill made an important discovery: camp linens were being laundered in outdated machines not designed for institutional use, which meant that valuable staff time was being wasted. The matter was soon before the session of Erwin Presbyterian.
“Eleven thousand dollars for an industrial washer and dryer?” The elders weighed the request. Discussion was lively. The church already supported 10 mission workers on five continents. Betty and Bill pressed their case. After healthy debate, the vote was made and the check written.
The story of Betty and Bill’s joint mission came to completion on September 10, 2013, when Betty lost a heroic, two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. But did these disciples’ mission lose? No. The love and the commitment to Jesus Christ, long expressed amid the trees and mountains, found new expression at the bedside. The members of Erwin Presbyterian gathered around the couple as witnesses to that love. And Craig Bell and the staff of Holston Presbytery Camp joined them.
Erwin Presbyterian Church is one of 66 congregations in Holston Presbytery.
—Stanley N. Webster, minister, Erwin Presbyterian ChurchLet us join in prayer for:
Richard L. Fifield, executive presbyter / stated clerk
Kimberley D. Fifield, treasurer / financial manager
Craig Bell, director, Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center
Andrea Sutter, Campus House director, youth and young adult ministry
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of heaven and earth, we remember before you the work of those whose earthly mission is accomplished. Send us into the world, as you sent them, to extend the loving rule of the one you sent, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Daily Lectionary
You hear them before you see them. The cheer squad of First Presbyterian Church, one of 67 congregations in the Presbytery of East Tennessee, sing special cheers and blow vuvuzelas from the sidelines of American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) games to support the children of Spring City. It began with an effort to strengthen the relationship with the Girl Scout troop that meets at First. In 2013, a scout earning her Silver Award organized an AYSO league. The church encouraged her efforts by hosting community meetings, sign-ups, and board meetings. When the season started that fall, the cheer squad was on the sidelines to support the teams at every game.
The relationship grew into a partnership when four Girl Scouts brought the session a plan for a community food pantry at the church. Seeing firsthand the devastating effects of unemployment and food insecurity on a family in their troop, the scouts wanted to find a way to help other families in the community. Several girls earning their Bronze Award also planned a summer garden to provide fresh vegetables for the pantry. After six months of planning, the Helping Hands Community Food Pantry opened its doors.
When First Presbyterian divided in controversy in November 2013, it was left with seven members. The bond already formed between the remaining members and the families involved in Girl Scouts and soccer has transformed the church. Families started coming to worship and participating in the life of church. And on Easter Sunday 2014, they all experienced the hope of John 3:16 as they baptized two children and received five new members. Praise be to God for the new life we have in Jesus Christ!
—Rev. Linda Springer, pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Spring CityLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, we believe no one should be hungry in body or spirit. We believe we can make a difference as your disciples as we work together. Most of all, we believe in your Son, who showed us how to love one another. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Aware of the evolving nature of the denomination, the Synod of Living Waters decided over a decade ago to focus its life and work on resourcing and strengthening its presbyteries. “Synod ministries” ceased in favor of supporting and encouraging “presbytery partnerships”—which have included presbytery ministries such as a joint collegiate retreat, conflict-management training, events for first-call pastors, and training for GA commissioners.
Increasingly, the synod’s focus has turned to the need for presbyteries to develop creative ways to work together and share resources. A “Shared Futures” summit was held in 2013, with a follow-up in 2014. The gatherings have led to creative new sharing of staff and resources, such as the Presbytery of South Alabama’s executive working part-time with the Presbytery of Mississippi, the Presbytery of the Mid-South sharing some of its young adult ministries staff person’s time with the Presbytery of St. Andrew in return for some time from its executive, and the Presbytery of St. Andrew providing administrative services by contract to the Synod of Living Waters and Living Waters for the World.
These efforts and programs are strengthening our common life and revitalizing connections among our 12 presbyteries and 679 congregations as we seek to faithfully participate in God’s mission in the world.
—Gregory A. Goodwiller, executive presbyter and stated clerk, Presbytery of St. AndrewLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Terry Newland, synod executive
Carie Turner, financial administrator, Synod of Living Waters and Living Waters for the World
Ellen Kellum, administrative services, Synod of Living Waters and Living Waters for the World
Steve Young, executive director, Living Waters for the World
Kendall Cox, director of education, Living Waters for the World
Jeff Wagner, director of operations, Living Waters for the World
Ralph Young, networks coordinator, Living Waters for the World
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of grace, we know that we are stronger and more effective in mission when we work together. Guide us, by your Holy Spirit, into a life of ever-increasing connection to each other. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Acts of compassion leave a local mark and have a larger, even global, impact. Irvington Presbyterian Church (IPC) in Indianapolis is passionate about food justice and just trade. IPC transformed a home into the Hospitality House to offer subsidized housing for partners in ministry. The Hospitality House has hosted AmeriCorps VISTA members who work on local food-justice issues, such as projects offering low-income families access to locally grown fresh produce.
Concerned about fair trade, two IPC members participated in a Presbyterian Coffee Project trip to Nicaragua, where they learned about coffee cooperatives and how fair trade helps provide farmers livable wages. IPC also uses and sells Equal Exchange fair-trade products, Sweat-Free T-shirts, and Eco-Palms.
Hope Presbyterian Church in Plainfield felt a call from God to serve the community in a new way when members discovered that no one in Hendricks County consistently provided hygiene products to their most financially challenged neighbors. Indispensable products such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, and toothpaste cannot be purchased with food stamps, so Hope started a hygiene-products pantry in an unused Sunday school room and began gathering donations to create and stock shelves. For five years Hope has partnered with nine county food pantries by delivering hygiene products each month to be distributed to patrons. Hope has been blessed to serve over 700 residents a year, a number they plan to grow.
The Presbytery of Whitewater Valley connects, resources, and empowers its 62 congregations, two Latino new church developments, one Chin Burmese fellowship, and one developing new worshiping community.
—Rev. Felipe N. Martinez, associate executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Taylor Alan Thames, executive presbyter
Felipe N. Martinez, associate executive presbyter
Kristy Quinn, stated clerk andexecutive administrator
Phil Votaw, treasurer
Eric Herzog, financial consultant to the presbytery and its congregations
Mike Srbljan, financial manager
Craig Shaw, information technologist
Fernando Rodriguez, organizing pastor, Nueva Creación NCD
Barry Sumner, CRE for Nueva Creación NCD
Leonel Pech, organizing pastor, Amistad Cristiana NCD
Roger McDaniel, organizing pastor,the Circle new worshiping community
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Eternal God, you open our eyes to injustice and call us to stand with you against it. Continue bringing us closer to each other and to you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
As we lift up small-membership churches today, let us remember God’s promise to David: “I will provide a place for my people . . . ; I will plant them there” (2 Sam. 7:10 JB).
The membership of our congregation, First Presbyterian Church in McComb, Ohio, is drawn from the village and nearby rural farms. We believe that God has planted his church in McComb and so focus our service here.
Four years ago, after a period of prayer and discernment, we launched an after-school outreach program for children in the local school. The purpose of Lift Off was to help children explore their creativity, soar into self-confidence, build relationships, and see life in a different dimension. Lift Off has grown from 17 to over 50 children each week. When its human resources were stretched to the limit, people from the community answered the call for help. Some came from other churches, while others were parents of children who had passed through the program; they wanted to help bring to others the same experiences their children had loved.
God has opened other opportunities for service in the community. We have begun a Latino ministry that encourages self-development by building English skills and addresses other needs as they arise in the community.
Size is no limit when the Holy Spirit is empowering our imagination and equipping us with resources. Small-member churches can make a great impact wherever they are planted.
—Janeane Hopkins, commissioned ruling elder, First Presbyterian Church, McComb, OhioLet us pray
Holy God, your gifts are overwhelming, and the power of your Spirit is great. We pray this day for small-membership churches. Jesus began the church with just 12 people, and in the power of the Spirit they changed the world. Moving forward, and empowered by that same Spirit, may we do likewise. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
2 Sam. 7:1–14a
“God Is My Strong Salvation”
GTG 841, HB 347, PH 179
“My Song Forever Shall Record”
GTG 67, HB 516, PH 209
“Come Now, O Prince of Peace” /
Mark 6:30–34, 53–56
“My Shepherd Will
Supply My Need”
GTG 803, PH 172
“Heart for mission” describes many congregations of the Presbytery of Wabash Valley. Our 84 congregations seek to provide prophetic witness through compassionate action among those in need. We pray for and support 14 international mission coworkers serving in nine countries and on three continents. Twenty-six of our congregations, the presbytery itself, and individual contributors partner with one or more of these coworkers through financial support. Together, they know the importance of mission presence—through words and actions—as coworkers share the good news of the gospel. These relationships enhance and reinforce our connectional nature and commitment: from our smallest churches to our largest, from northern Indiana to international mission sites.
Many of our congregations also engage directly to meet needs through youth and adults involved in international, national, and local acts of discipleship. For example, more than 12 congregations are involved in an ecumenical ministry to feed the hungry in Merrillville. Funded in part from a presbytery Mission Seed Grant, the Feeding the Flock community meal, held each Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, is free and open to everyone. In three years, the ministry has served over 7,500 well-balanced meals.
Other Wabash Valley congregations are involved in similar ministries throughout the presbytery. Together, we seek to be the hands and feet and to proclaim the compassionate heart of Christ among those in need.
—Frank Vardeman, general presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Frank Vardeman, general presbyter
Linda Long, stated clerk
Gladys Sargent, office manager
Vicki Dreibelbis, church relations coordinator
Eric Herzog, financial consultant
Bonnie Kern, IT consultant
Cathy Adley, manager, Geneva Center
Jeff Winegardner, maintenance director, Geneva Center
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Tony Lewis, PPC
Belinda Leyba, PMA
Evelyn Leyba, PMA
God of grace, we thank you for the joy of serving you by serving others. Continue to open our hearts to the needs around us, and may we show forth our concern with hearts and hands, so that all your children may be showered with your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois was confronted with a true test to our compassionate and prophetic discipleship when the blizzard of January 2014 hit the area with a debilitating blast. Who knew that hospitality in the face of subzero temperatures and blinding snow would not only unleash generous compassion but also renew and redirect good and faithful servants.
Interstate 57 in central Illinois was closed down. Cars and trucks slid into snowbanks and could not move. First Presbyterian Church of Mattoon, in cooperation with the American Red Cross and local and state first responders, opened the church as a refuge for those who needed shelter from the storm. Over the course of three days, the church provided shelter, food, support, and so much else to some 500 people and their pets.
Where did the congregation’s newfound friends sleep? In the pews of the sanctuary (the first time a church encouraged that), in Sunday school rooms, in the church gym, and anywhere else space could be found. First Mattoon members showed the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to those who were adrift. Someone was available to help from the moment people entered the facility until they left. One guest even told the pastor that he had been away from the church for some time and would now go back because of what he saw this church doing.
A family of four traveling from Missouri wound up in a ditch near Raymond, Illinois. The pastor of First United Presbyterian, having anticipated the need for hospitality, alerted the local fire chief that the Presbyterians were ready if the need arose. The travelers limped into town with a tire off its rim. After a warm meal at the home of the fire chief, Presbyterians provided dry clothes, beds to sleep in, and a hearty breakfast. The firemen found a tire dealer that would open and, through donations, replace the damaged wheel and tire with new ones. The car was fixed, and the stranded travelers continued their journey stocked with food for the rest of their trip.
First Presbyterian of Mattoon and First United of Raymond are among the 94 congregations of the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois.
—Anne Jones, transitional executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Thank you, God, for unexpected gifts from wintry weather that lead us regular Christians to new places to serve you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In 2013 ground was broken on the Micah Center, a 5,400-square-foot building on the lot north of Dale Presbyterian Church. The building includes an area that will seat 125–150 people comfortably, a commercial-grade kitchen, storage, a prayer and meeting space, and a children’s room. The Micah Center is dedicated to addressing social justice issues, providing hospitality and fellowship, and offering a space for worship and prayer.
The Micah Center was a dream of a congregation with an average worship attendance of 45. Even before ground was broken, members were busy teaming up with other congregations, foundations, and educational institutions to respond to community needs through a host of ministries: Community Table serves a free meal to anyone who shows up; Summer Community Adventures runs a free weekly summer program for children who are undernourished and need tutoring in reading and other subjects as well as constructive activities; Let’s Eat sends bags of nonperishable food home with every child who attends Community Table or Summer Community Adventures; ESL classes are offered in partnership with the adult-education program of Vincennes University; Benefit Bank of Indiana provides volunteers to help people apply for state and federal services and to prepare taxes; a Boy Scout troop meets at the congregation several times a month; and 3b—Body, Brain, and Belief—is a program for adults over 50. Completion of the Micah Center building has made it possible to offer these critical services to even more people.
The Micah Center story is one of faith, hope, love, and witness;of discipleship inspired by a compassionate prophet; of doxology, a song of praise to the One from whom all blessings flow.
In the words of the congregation’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Martha FrizLanger: “We are praising our abundant God who knows no scarcity! We are praising our living God who makes all things possible and new!”
Dale Presbyterian Church is one of 79 congregations in southern and west central Indiana that grace the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, bearing witness to the sovereign activity of God in the world.
—Rev. Susan C. McGhee, executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, member, PMA Board
Rev. Susan C. McGhee, executive presbyter
Rev. Lawrence Jackman, stated clerk
Elder M. Jean Brown, treasurer
Rhonda Seymour, administrative assistant for office support
Elder Stephanie Worden, administrative assistant for information technology
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Praise to you, abundant God who knows no scarcity! Praise to you, living God who makes all things possible and new! Amen.Daily Lectionary
The oldest church in the Midwest Hanmi Presbytery is Hanmee Presbyterian Church, which has 51 years of history. Compared with the history of the PC(USA), this may seem a short time. However, if we consider the circumstances surrounding Korean immigrant congregations, this history is quite remarkable.
In celebrating its 50th anniversary, Hanmee Presbyterian Church proclaimed a year of jubilee in 2014. It planned activities in which the people of the congregation had the opportunity to share the love that they have received with others. In particular, the congregation provided considerable support for mission conferences and the shared mission activities of the presbytery. We request prayers that other congregations in the presbytery may share a similar grace.
In 2014 Midwest Hanmi Presbytery organized a joint presbytery mission trip to Honduras over a two-week period. The trip was especially meaningful due to the participation of other presbyteries in our synod. Adults were involved in medical mission and ministry to the poor. Students taught English at the Christian school founded by missionaries and held vacation Bible school during the weekends. The trip was a meaningful shared mission activity in which the love of Jesus Christ was experienced by all participants. It became for all far more than a simple visit-and-serve trip.
Midwest Hanmi Presbytery serves 19 congregations and their 2,625 members.
—Eun Sung Cho, executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Eun Sung Cho, executive presbyter
Jae Lee, stated clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord, please help Midwest Hanmi Presbytery to bloom as an integral part of the garden that is the PC(USA). Please help the presbytery do its best in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ by uniting and loving each other. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
On November 17, 2013, I preached to the congregation of Washington Presbyterian Church from 2 Thessalonians on how each person is called to wake up every morning and ask, “What can I add to Christ’s body today?” As part of the sermon, I passed out slips of paper to everyone with suggestions for how people might participate in our congregation’s life. I could hardly have known that by the end of the day the whole town of Washington would be living out God’s message of service.
Later that day, Washington, along with other communities in central Illinois, was devastated by an EF4 tornado. In Washington, the storm left approximately 1,500 people homeless, including seven families belonging to Washington Presbyterian. Almost immediately, the surrounding communities gave of their time, talents, and treasures to help bring people to safety. With our building still intact, our people prayed and asked God how we could help.
The answer came as we looked at the basement renovation already on the schedule for that year. When the basement was originally dug (almost 40 years ago!), the church installed plumbing for two showers, but the showers themselves were never installed. Now, looking at those unfinished bathrooms and the out-of-date Sunday school rooms, the congregation realized what God was calling us to do: finish the Sunday school space and showers and prepare to house volunteers who came to help rebuild the town. Church members agreed to provide meals to volunteers in addition to a facility that could serve as their base of operations.
With donations of time and money from members of the 98 congregations in the Presbytery of Great Rivers, congregations such as Washington Presbyterian Church have been able to make a difference in communities affected by the storm. From community Thanksgiving meals to hands-on help with debris removal, God is using all the folks of central Illinois to add to the body of Christ. We are so blessed to be part of a connectional church with a heart and mind for mission!
—Rev. Rebecca Weltmann, pastor, Washington Presbyterian ChurchLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, you call us from every time and place to follow you. Give us the courage to go where you lead us and to ask daily, “What can I add to the body of Christ?” Help us to hear your call and respond faithfully, so that we may each grow in our relationship with you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
In order to better connect people of all faiths, the Presbytery of Chicago has taken steps to develop mutual, respectful, and compassionate relationships with local faith groups. One such initiative is the covenant between the presbytery and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago signed June 2013.
A dinner to celebrate the new covenant and the commitment of the two groups to “serve, support, and benefit one another” was held in the fall, and several congregations in the presbytery incorporated the covenant statement into worship services. For 2014, congregations were encouraged to partner with outside organizations to discuss books relating Christianity and Islam and perform joint service projects.
The historic covenant document concludes with this important message:
“In order to achieve this vision we recognize that our two communities in metropolitan Chicago have much work to do. With sincere effort, we commit ourselves
• to deepen our understanding of each other’s religion
• to recognize that we do not agree on all things
• to model respect for each other’s religions
• to work together on issues of human equality and social justice, consistent with our religious values.
Together we place our trust and hope in God, that God will bless and guide our efforts and that God will turn our efforts into a blessing for us.”
The Presbytery of Chicago is home to more than 100 congregations and worshiping fellowships and 33,171 members.
—Natalie Beglen, managing editor, Our Common Ministry, Presbytery of ChicagoLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Molly Baskin, member, PMA Board
Elder Joseph L. Morrow, member, PMA Board
Safiyyah Al-Amin, staff accountant
Natalie Beglen, newsletter managing editor
Rev. Wendy Boden-Nelson, Volunteer in Mission (VIM) interfaith solidarity coordinator
Rev. David Boumgarden, consultant, church development
Rev. Barbara Bundick, stated clerk
Laura Cathey, communications / resource center coordinator
Linda Denberry, VIM, operations
Rev. Janice Edmiston, associate executive presbyter, ministry
Rev. Garnett Foster, consultant, empower ministries
Elder Loretta Gratias-Bremer, consultant, safe boundaries
Rev. Tassie Green, proactive transformation coordinator
Elder Peg Griffiths, VIM, interfaith solidarity coordinator
Rev. Eric Heinekamp, director, business affairs
Elder Juanita Holley, consultant justice ministries
Louise Howe, VIM, consultant archivist
Elder Terry Jackson, VIM resource center
Rev. Cliff Lyda, VIM, parliamentarian
Rev. Jay Moses, VIM, interreligious relationships coordinator
Elder Jacqueline Murray, scholarship coordinator
Earnestine Norwood, office manager / assistant to executive presbyter
Denise Pomey, office services assistant
Rev. Robert Reynolds, executive presbyter
Kitty Ridley, executive assistant
Rev. Matt Wrzeszcz, youth ministries coordinator
Young Adult Volunteers
Mackintosh Barker, Teresa Larson, and Elizabeth Mast
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Christopher Lega, PMALet us pray
Dear Lord, we seek your guidance to show compassion, justice, and love to all people in this diverse world. Although we may not agree on all things, help us to focus on our similarities and work together for the common good. Amen.Daily Lectionary
For San Francisco Theological Seminary graduate Rev. Paul Gaffney, Tuesday afternoons always start by gathering with homeless people for reflection and prayer. The meeting is followed by a communal dinner prepared by the group.
Gaffney began inviting people outside of the homeless community to join in the Tuesday-evening dinners, but almost all were hesitant to come. Time and time again, the response was, “How can I take a meal from someone in need?” His response is always the same: “It’s not about the food. It’s about presence.”
“God shows up in the space between people,” Gaffney says. “God is evident in the time that we spend, in our listening, and in our presence with those who are suffering.” He cites his continued clinical pastoral education studies at the seminary for helping him learn how to accompany people without pushing, pulling, or fixing—an important part of being present.
The evening meals are just one of Gaffney’s many efforts, as the chaplain of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, to nurture a spiritual presence on the streets of San Rafael, California. Other activities include providing spiritual support to inmates at a local prison who are battling addiction, helping a local wellness center stay in touch with its participants, and providing Friday-morning coffee and conversation to the local homeless population.
Gaffney leaves us with the call to practice our faith by giving others our time, a listening ear, and our company as they journey through life.
God in heaven, we thank you for your compassionate presence in our lives and ask that you help us to be a compassionate presence to the people around us, regardless of who we may encounter. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
2 Sam. 6:1–5, 12b–19
“Let All the World in
Every Corner Sing”
GTG 636, HB 22, PH 468
“Lift Up the Gates Eternal”
GTG 364, PH 177
“You Belong to Christ”
“There’s a Wideness
in God’s Mercy”
GTG 435, HB 110, PH 298