Jesus’ resurrection is a familiar story—one of new beginnings, eternal life, and everlasting love. How do we make this amazing yet familiar story new in our lives? As represented in Matthew, the two Marys visited Jesus’ tomb. After finding that his body was no longer there, they expected the worst. What they found instead was the most glorious discovery. Jesus resurrected! Jesus appeared to them—two marginalized women—and gave them the responsibility to share the exciting news of Jesus’ eternal life. Such a discovery would surely have changed their lives forever. Jesus sharing his new beginning must have given them new life and a deeper understanding of his love.
A friend of mine experienced an unexpected new beginning through his grandmother’s love and acceptance. My friend is gay. Coming out to his family was a scary and challenging process. They did not embrace him, nor did they celebrate his individuality. My friend had to face the reality that he was not what his parents wanted him to be. While learning to love how God made him was difficult enough in a world that so often preaches hate, it became even more difficult upon learning that his parents did not support him. One day my friend was talking with his grandmother and the conversation turned to his sexuality. He expected her to react similarly to his parents; however, just as the two Marys expected the worst and discovered something amazing, my friend’s grandma immediately embraced him just as he was, as if there were no other way to respond. His grandma’s love surprised him and gave him new strength.
Jesus cherished marginalized peoples and gave new life through his resurrection and everlasting love. How can we enter a new beginning this Easter season? How can we better follow Christ and open our heart by embracing others?
—Abbi Heimach, student, McCormick Theological Seminary, ChicagoLet us pray
Loving God, you who gave us eternal life, you who shares the power of your love through others, you who amaze us when we expect the worst, help us love. You taught us to love, and we can do better. Please help us. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
“There Is a Balm in Gilead”
“The Desert Shall Rejoice”
Ps. 118:1–2, 14–24
Col. 3:1–4 or Acts 10:34–43
“O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing!”
PH 116, 117
“The Strife Is O’er”
HB 203, PH 119
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!”
HB 204, PH 113
Grace. This one word is all Pastor Roger Wu needs to answer the question: “Why become a chartered Presbyterian church?” As a commissioned ruling elder, Wu has been shepherding the community of First Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for 10 years. “We have all experienced God’s amazing grace,” he says. “Without His grace, it’s impossible.”
For most of those 10 years, the Taiwanese community has partnered with Mercer Island Presbyterian Church , with whom they have shared fellowship, worship, and service. “From the first day, we were warmly welcomed by MIPC!” Wu says. “[Their] sincere acceptance and incredible hospitality [has allowed us to] freely grow in joy and appreciation. What’s the secret to a good relationship? It’s simple—they treat us as family members and we treat them as family members. We are one church in Christ.”
As the community takes a leap of faith and charters, they look forward to enriching their partnership and connection with congregations throughout the presbytery. “Deeper and wider,” says Wu. “We hope that we can participate in more missions in Seattle Presbytery.”
Eliana Maxim, Seattle’s associate executive presbyter, reflects on that partnership: “Seattle Presbytery has been blessed to be a ministry partner with the Taiwanese congregation. Their decision to charter is a testimony to a profound shared respect and desire to be missional together in a broader and deeper way. We continue to plant and nurture other new worshiping communities, in the hopes of growing the kingdom of God in Seattle.”
Seattle Presbytery ’s 50 congregations have 16,958 total members.
—Aaron Willett, communications coordinator, Seattle PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Steve Aeschbacher, at-large member, PMA Board
Rev. Scott Lumsden, executive presbyter
Rev. Kevin Nollette, associate executive presbyter
Rev. Eliana Maxim, associate executive presbyter
Kathy Lueckert, stated clerk
Binh Nguyen, South East Asia Ministry Team director
Aaron Willett, communications coordinator
EJ Lee, administrative guru
Kris Green, bookkeeper
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, you continue to call your church into partnership for the gospel. Bless today the new things you are doing in our midst, and bless the congregations, fellowships, pastors, and staff of Seattle Presbytery. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The man sitting across from me is quietly shaking. He stares blankly through the barred window. He is maybe 19 years old. He is an artist. And though less than a foot stands between his beige, cheaply constructed plastic chair and mine, distance is not always best measured in feet and inches. That’s especially true in prison.
When I first saw him in worship, I was struck by what I can only describe as gentleness—a kindness I discovered to be fairly common among the men with whom I ministered in prison, but a kindness usually less overt, and for good reason.
He tells me that he was attacked. Bad things happened to him. And I am reminded that Good Friday is a day for grieving.
The psalmist asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1).
But God didn’t forsake this man. We did. God didn’t create prisons that warehouse 2.4 million American citizens, most of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses and yet are subject to the daily violence of a place that dehumanizes at every front. We did that.
And God didn’t crucify God’s only Son. We did that too.
What God does is resurrect. So, on this day when we remember those whom the world is still seeking to break, we look toward an Easter hallelujah. But as we wait, and pray, and labor (particularly for justice), I will keep this young man’s art on my wall—a reminder of what even modern-day tombs cannot bury.
—Rev. Patrick David Heery, editor, Presbyterian Mission publicationsLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Brandi Giles, PPC
Lacey Gilliam, PMA
God of peace, take from our hands the hammers that seal the tombs of our brothers and sisters. Take hold of our grief. Show us that today is not the end. Remind us of a love that could not be destroyed. Amen.Revised Common Lectionary for Good Friday
Heb. 10:16–25 or Heb. 4:14–16; 5:7–9
Shock and awe. Whenever Jesus acts and speaks, he shocks us, he awes us, as he did the disciples when he washed their feet.
Holding the grimy, sweaty feet of the disciples clashes with human thoughts of whom and what the King and Creator of the universe is supposed to be about. And yet those who heed the psalmist’s words should not be too surprised:
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
your name endures to all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion. (Ps. 102:12–13b)
The psalmist trusts in and finds again and again that the Almighty God who created the heavens and earth is the One who delivers, who helps, who comforts, who shelters. God is not a far-off king but the sovereign Lord who comes as a lowly carpenter’s son, is counted as a common criminal, and prostrates himself to his friends.
On Maundy Thursday 2013, Pope Francis demonstrated the humility characteristic of his namesake from Assisi by washing, anointing, and kissing the feet of young people in Rome. Juveniles serving life sentences in Los Angeles prisons wrote letters to Pope Francis. One said:
Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy. We also are young and made mistakes. Society has given up on us. Thank you that you have not given up on us.
May we be of the same mind and heart as Jesus, humbling ourselves to each other, serving one and all.
—Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa, moderator, 220th General Assembly (2012)Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ, who loves us and serves us. May we serve and love you and each other. Amen.Lectionary for Maundy Thursday
Exod. 12:1–4 (5–10) 11–14
Ps. 116:1–2, 12–19
1 Cor. 11:23–26
John 13:1–17, 31b–35
It’s a new day in Olympia Presbytery. When beloved general presbyter Rev. Lynn Longfield stepped down after 16 years at the end of 2012, the presbytery set about reimagining its future. Under Rev. Longfield’s leadership a futures task force had developed a mission statement and a plan. To help implement that plan, Rev. Dr. Keith Tanis was brought on board as transitional executive presbyter. He has established two cohorts of congregations to begin a journey toward missional transformation. He also is coaching the pastors of these congregations in missional leadership.
Simply stated, missional transformation shifts the focus of ministry outward. It is not about adding people in the pews or dollars in the offering plate. It is about engaging our communities to see what God is already doing and becoming a part of it.
With Rev. Tanis as coach, these congregations will meet together, pray for one another, and study and put into action the principles of missional transformation. Through it all, they will seek to follow wherever the Holy Spirit leads. It is impossible to know at the beginning what the outcome will be, but they are confident that stepping out in faith will lead to transformation.
Olympia Presbytery serves 6,859 members of 45 congregations and is home to Camp Sound View.
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Holy God, guide us as we seek to do your will in a world of dizzying change. Help us to be transformed by your steadfast love that never changes. Shift our focus outward into our communities, that we might share your amazing grace so that others can also be transformed. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“Hey coach, what’s your job?” asked the inquisitive eight-year-old in the middle of soccer practice. I was talking to my team about the next drill and the passing technique that they were working on, so it caught me a little off guard. My first instinct was to move on, to redirect the conversation to the task at hand by gently saying to the child, “We can talk about it later.” But “later” usually doesn’t come, and one of the main reasons I was out on that field was to connect with those kids and their families and to share the gospel of Jesus. So I answered, “Well . . . I’m a pastor.” The child’s response was not what I expected: “A pastor! What’s that?”
Tidelands is a new church expression partnering with North Puget Sound Presbytery and the existing congregation of Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Marysville. We are trying to reach kids and families, just like the one described above, who have no connection with an existing church community. Following a lengthy process of discernment, Tidelands was launched in the Stanwood/Camano Island area with a missional community model. The idea is to meet in smaller groups that will focus on reaching a neighborhood or a people group within the community. The missional community model emphasizes equipping people to live as the church—instead of simply going to church—and supports growth by way of regular multiplication.
The presbytery’s 35 congregations, two fellowships, and one missional community have a total of 8,059 members.
—Rev. Brandon Bailey, pastor, Tidelands Worshiping Community, StanwoodLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Clarence Antioquia, member, PMA Board
Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall, executive presbyter
Rev. Dean Strong, stated clerk
Sarah Beard, communications coordinator
Kris Green, bookkeeper
Eric Eun, director, Wellspring young adult ministry
Rev. Jim Christensen, volunteer in mission
Rev. Jin Suk Kim, associate executive presbyter for Korean ministry
Bill Grosse, treasurer
EJ Lee, Gala coordinator
Rev. David Rohrer, student internship coordinator
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ruth Gardner, PMA
Joe David Garner, PMA
God, grant us peace to rest in you, love to connect with our neighbors, and the courage to venture out. Amen.Daily Lectionary
During a decade of moonlighting as a restaurant critic, I dropped into the hidden world behind the smiles of those who waited on me, and God ultimately used this experience to shove me out the door to launch a nonprofit to care for those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Why? Three reasons: (1) food-service workers are the largest employment group in the nation; (2) they are incredibly isolated—most working when the rest of us are not; and (3) they face intense stress and have the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the nation. In addition, the industry is the catch basin for the most vulnerable in our culture: at-risk teens, single parents, minorities, new immigrants, and ex-felons trying to put their lives back together.
What started as little more than a culinary diversion changed the night God woke me out of a deep sleep with this call: “I need a pastor for this industry. Are you interested?”
The vision for Big Table unfolded that night, inspired by Acts 2, where Luke describes the disciples eating together and caring for one another. This simple model—shared meals around an actual big table, and care without condition—has become a stunning way of reaching those in an industry full of people alienated from church and angry at a God they mistakenly believe offers only conditional grace.
The Presbytery of Inland Northwest serves 46 congregations and their 6,616 members.
—Rev. Kevin Finch, executive director, Big TableLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God, in your mercy, give us eyes to see beyond the smiles of those who serve us. Open our hearts to love those so easy to treat simply as tools, for you said that whenever we care for the least, we serve you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The arrival of Jesus is fast approaching. Are you prepared to see Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior?
In Matthew 21, the citizens of Jerusalem are preparing for the arrival of Jesus, pulling out all the stops for the Son of God. How do we as Christians prepare the gates of our hearts for the arrival of Jesus? Do we have a great ceremony, or a quiet reflection? Do we think of Jesus only when church is fun and exciting, or do we prepare for him every day?
We see a similar pattern among sports fans. Do we cheer for our favorite teams only when they’re winning and criticize them when they’re losing? Or do we love them no matter what the outcome of the game? I love my teams whether they win or lose, because they’re a part of me. Even when they aren’t playing, my team is on my mind.
Jesus is also a part of me—a much bigger part—and remains so no matter where I am or what the occasion. He is never far from me.
—Amari Dryden, high school student; member, Central Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky; member, production team, Presbyterian Youth Triennium, 2013Let us pray
Creator God, show me how to prepare for the games of life, whether I’m on the team or in the stands; whether my team is winning or losing. Let me represent Jesus like the fan and child of God I am. In Jesus’ name. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
“Ride On! Ride On in Majesty!”
HB 188, PH 90, 91
Ps. 118:1–2, 19–29
“Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty”
HB 40, PH 489
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
HB 194, PH 98
“Psalm 118: 19–29”
“He Never Said a Mumbalin’ Word”
Matt. 26:14–27:66 or Matt. 27:11–54
“Were You There?”
HB 201, PH 102
Five years ago Kennewick First Presbyterian Church committed to a presbytery-led mission-visioning process involving three years of study in order to discern, in the words of the congregation’s strategic plan, “what we will become.” The opening line of Kennewick First’s current vision statement succinctly summarizes its answer: “Daily becoming the heart and hands of Jesus Christ.” This vision informs everything the congregation does.
God gifts us all with the potential to fulfill that vision—and whatever particular visions God may show us. Our gift back to God is what we do with that potential. Konrad Adenauer was correct when he stated, “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” That is, we see what we are prepared to see. Actually, we first believe it, and then we see it. We see a little shepherd boy, but God saw King David. We see a rough and salty fisherman, yet God saw Peter as the leader of the early church.
There is a story about a bishop who many years ago paid a visit to a small religious college. He stayed at the home of its president, who also served as professor of physics and chemistry. After dinner, the bishop declared that almost everything about nature had been discovered and all inventions conceived. The young college president politely disagreed and said he thought there would be many more discoveries. When the angered bishop challenged the president to name just one such invention, the president said he thought men would fly in 50 years. The bishop laughed. The bishop’s surname was Wright, and he had two boys at home, Orville and Wilbur, who would prove to have a greater vision than their father. They lived under the same sky but didn’t have the same horizon.
The Presbytery of Central Washington ’s 37 congregations have 5,472 total members.
They excitedly watch Kennewick First becoming the “heart and hands of Jesus Christ.”
—G. David Lambertson, former presbytery executiveLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ever-present God, help us to see today with the heart of Jesus the needs of those around us. And may our hands always be helping in Jesus’ name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Christian missionaries came to Alaska from the East and the West. The Russian Orthodox came first. Later, the tide of westward expansion brought Americans, notably Sheldon Jackson, who like the Russians planted churches, opened hospitals, and established schools. With the sale of Alaska to the United States, Russian influence diminished, but Russian priests served there until 1917.
Young Walter Soboleff first attended the Bishop’s School in Sitka. When it closed, and the Russian priests were withdrawn, he moved to Sheldon Jackson School, just down the beach. In later years, as the beloved pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Juneau, Rev. Soboleff preached in English and Tlingit, and the choir often sang Orthodox choruses, rich in melody and Scripture.
Other missionaries came as well. The work in Kake was begun by The Board of National Missions closed the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Juneau in 1962, and the building was demolished. Rev. Soboleff salvaged the carved sign and gave it to the Kake congregation. On the congregation’s 100th anniversary, the sign was formally dedicated in his memory.
In 2013 the Presbytery of Alaska dismissed six of its congregations to ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, including Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kake. Presbyterians in southeast Alaska now work and pray together in ways not of governance but of mission. For the presbytery, this is a difficult passage. Its call and challenge, in this season of change, is to live for Christ with the joy and fervor of those who have prepared the way.
The Presbytery of Alaska has nine congregations, stretching from Yakutat to Metlakatla.
—David Dobler, pastor to the presbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, make us bold daughters and sons of those who have gone before, that continuing in faith and joy we may bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those you love. In the strong name of Jesus we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The Synod of Alaska-Northwest has embarked on a journey of radical reformation. In 2011 the seven presbyteries gathered and reflected on two principles established by the 211th General Assembly (1999): that the “focus of the life and work of the PC(USA) is on developing, encouraging, equipping, and resourcing its congregations,” and that “it is essential that simplified, flexible, and more responsive ways be found for the PC(USA) to do its work.” The presbyteries requested that the synod reduce its function to judicial process and administrative review. A new small council consisting of a ruling and a teaching elder from each presbytery was adopted at the beginning of 2013.
In the spirit of “those closest to the action are the best managers,” all ongoing ministries and unrestricted assets have been delegated and given to the presbyteries. Ministries that were driven only by a “synod-level agenda” have been allowed to end. Ministries that were vital and supported by one or more presbyteries have been taken up by them and continue to thrive.
Some think the Synod of Alaska-Northwest no longer exists. It does! It’s working! It is proving to be highly flexible and rapidly responsive when a need emerges—but it does only what its presbyteries believe they can best do together.
The synod serves 251 congregations and their 47,289 members.
—Rev. Dean R. Strong, stated clerkLet us join in prayer for:
Dean Strong, stated clerk
EJ Lee, project assistant
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, increase our awareness of situations where we can “do it better together.” We give thanks for the relationships that develop when we unite in your service, carrying the light of your good news to a world that so desperately needs it. Amen.Daily Lectionary
You often see pictures of people in mission involved in projects that aim to improve the lives of people in the middle of Appalachia. Indeed, the disaster-recovery ministry of the Presbytery of West Virginia, the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW), is busy from March to November hosting work crews from throughout the country.
Volunteers work on projects that put new roofs on homes, insulate against the heat and cold, restore homes to livable conditions, and make connections between people often from very different situations.
There is another part of the Appalachian story. Many small congregations are involved in ministry to their community through food pantries, clothes closets, serving meals, and other community outreach ministries. Many collaborate with other congregations and denominations to extend the reach of God’s love.
Mission also extends beyond the boundaries of Appalachia. Members of presbytery congregations have traveled to rebuild homes on the Gulf Coast. Some have gone to Kenya to help reinforce our enduring covenant connection. A mission team recently traveled to Nicaragua to expand a new partnership of witness and service to the love of Jesus Christ. Others have traveled to Haiti and Puerto Rico, establishing lasting relationships and seeking to show the love of God to our neighbors—who may be separated from us geographically but are never out of the reach of God’s grace.
The Presbytery of West Virginia’s 135 congregations have 9,975 total members.
—Jim Robinson, chair, board of directors, WVMAWLet us join in prayer for:
Forrest Palmer, interim executive presbyter
Craig Butler, associate presbyter for congregational support
Maureen Wright, stated clerk
Lois Coffey, financial administrator/treasurer
Claire Butler, interim associate presbyter for older adult ministries and hunger action enabler
Karen Robinson, resource center director
Leslie Curtis, office administrator
Susan Sharp Campbell, associate for educational ministries
Mark Miller, director, Bluestone Camp and Conference Center
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
For your work in these mountains and beyond, O Lord, we are grateful. Thank you for those who give of themselves to show your love to all people. Unite us in your service through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Washington Presbytery, encompassing two counties in southwest Pennsylvania, celebrates a third decade of partnership with Christian congregations of Southwest Bethel Synod (SWBS), Ethiopia. Ideas, resources, relationships, and especially prayer support have flowed between the two judicatories since 1991 and today continue to bear fruit—literally.
Several reciprocal visits occurred across the partnership years. Elders from Washington Presbytery’s 62 congregations traveled to Ethiopia’s southwest provinces to renew the partnership covenant; confer about available aid and financial assistance; see the hand of God working in education, agriculture, medical care, and economic development; and better understand the challenges faced by Ethiopian sisters and brothers. Likewise, several SWBS leaders have come to Pennsylvania to deliver firsthand accounts of the Holy Spirit’s work in gathering new believers and growing churches throughout the southwest provinces. The partnership’s long history fosters deep benefits and many blessings for Christians in both places.
Over the years, presbytery congregations have provided, among other things, literacy materials, clean water wells, sewing machines, and solar cookers. In recent years Ethiopians discovered their region to be optimal for apple growing, and so a cooperative project started two apple orchards that include several hundred trees! The orchards create jobs, provide a marketable commodity, and add healthy, desirable food to the Ethiopian diet. Last year 10 different presbytery vacation Bible schools supported the apple orchards, as did several congregations and individuals. The presbytery also fosters one-to-one relationships between Ethiopian and American congregations.
Please pray for SWBS officials Qes Yohannes Sherab, Ato Sisay Tomas, and Ato Gezahegn Bahiru as they minister among Ethiopian neighbors and keep communication lines open. Join with them in praying for Washington Presbytery and its leaders, including Elder Rusty Salminen, head of the partnership steering committee.
—Rev. Craig Kephart, executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Craig Kephart, executive presbyter
Elder John Rodgers, stated clerk
Susan Halulko, financial secretary
Becky Washabaugh, administrative assistant
Jeanne Clapp, hunger action enabler/administrative assistant
Patricia Lutz, resource center/small church transition consultant
Wil White, transition consultant
Greg Davis, camp director
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord God, we give praise and thanks for the partnership in the gospel shared by these Christians in Ethiopia and Pennsylvania. As you enlarge their service to you, strengthen believers in both regions to be faithful in love and devoted in service to you and to one another. Through Christ we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Ohio, West Virginia
Like many presbyteries, Upper Ohio Valley has been suffering financially during this time of economic instability. Knowing that major changes were coming in 2013, presbytery council appointed a reformation team to discern God’s will for the presbytery.
The executive presbyter and stated clerk both retired, and council felt that it was a good time to step back and take a sabbatical. To that end, a three-person administrative team was appointed to serve for 12–18 months. That would allow the reformation team time to pray, to work, and to discern the direction ahead for Upper Ohio Valley.
One of the first things the administrative team did was ask the stewardship committee to create a balanced budget reflecting the current economic situation. The budget required cutting presbytery staff to the bone: a very hard decision to implement, but a necessary one. Meanwhile, the reformation team has been meeting with pastors and praying for God’s leading. A professional coach will help move the process forward.
Good things are happening in Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery. Meetings are more productive, and there is a spirit of community that was not present in past years. Everyone is realizing that “we” are the presbytery and that if “we” are to survive, it will be because “we” take a hand in making it happen. We are not there yet, but with God’s help, we will get there.
—CRE Connie Quinn, member, administrative teamLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Creator God, we pray for discernment and guidance as we try to walk the narrow path that has been put before us. We know that it will be difficult but that the rewards will be great. It is in your Son’s name that we pray. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, believes that the formation of servant leaders and advocates is vital to the public-policy ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In 2010 the office revamped its internship program as a sign of its commitment, shared by the Presbyterian Mission Agency as a whole, to becoming more engaged with congregations and young adults.
Our internship and summer fellowship programs are opportunities for younger and older Presbyterians to engage in the policy work of the PC(USA) and of ecumenical and interfaith groups. It is important that our interns and fellows realize the historic and current need for faith groups to participate in the movement toward a just society. While with us, they are assigned a variety of tasks that prepare them to use all the tools in the advocate’s toolbox in whatever venue or vocation they find themselves. Their presence has significantly increased the number of young adult visitors to the OPW. Campus ministry groups on spring break and other curious pilgrims are making the program more competitive and more in demand.
We could not provide this opportunity without the assistance of the members and congregations of the PC(USA). One summer fellowship costs between $4,000 and $6,000. Interested persons, groups, or congregations can sponsor an intern or summer fellow through ECO# E051422. To learn more about the program, please visit.
—Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, director, PC(USA) Office of Public WitnessLet us pray
Lord, help us to remember that the holiness you desire is expressed foremost in how we treat our brothers and sisters. May our efforts to equip another generation for justice work be based on our love for you and our desire for your coming kingdom. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
“Breathe on Me, Breath of God”
HB 235, PH 316
“Out of the Depths”
“There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit “
“Why Has God Forsaken Me?”
Shenango Presbytery faces challenges common to many other presbyteries. Members of our congregations are older than the general population—and this in a state with a comparatively high percentage of elderly persons. Our 57 congregations and their more than 10,000 members have been concerned about numerical decline for decades. Fine institutions, such as Westminster College and Grove City College, which are PC(USA)-related and within presbytery bounds, provide an excellent education to youth from Shenango congregations, but upon graduation they must move to larger metropolitan areas to find work.
Leadership in Shenango Presbytery is beginning to learn that churches must always be starting new congregations or else be resigned to continuing decline. Pastors Angel De La Cruz and Nathan Loudon lead the “Right Here, Right Now” program, through which participating sessions embrace the need to “move back into the neighborhood” and build relationships with their neighbors, perhaps even forming new worshiping communities among them. Participants are coming to understand that even though there are plenty of Presbyterian congregations in the two-county geography north of Pittsburgh, they will only reach new followers of Jesus by going out to them.
Recent seminary graduates are attracted to this vision for the church and are now serving in Shenango Presbytery. Presently, 42 percent of its full-time pastors are under the age of 40, which is six times the churchwide average. The presbytery views this development as an unusual blessing through which the work of the Holy Spirit is anticipated.
The New Wilmington Mission Conference, a partner which also focuses on youth and young adults, registers almost 1,000 people from around the nation and the world each summer, with another 1,000 from the area also attending the one-week event.
—Rev. David Dawson, former executive presbyterLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord Jesus, you demonstrated for us a heart for all people, young and old. We ask you to open our eyes, especially to the young among us. May we do what is needed to introduce them to your love and mercy, for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Young adults aged 18 to 30 can truly be considered tweens—between independence and responsibility; between their parents’ beliefs and values and truly claiming their own. They graduate from but feel too young to join an adult education class populated by parents and senior citizens.
One way the church encourages and disciples young adults is through employing them as staff and counselors at Pine Springs Camp. Each year mature young Christians commit 5–15 weeks of their summer to serving sacrificially for relatively modest pay. Why?
They are able to give back. Many young adults spent their formative years at summer camp. Counselors who shared Christ’s love with them make them want to do the same for others.
This service honors their sense of call to serve Jesus—to further God’s kingdom.
They thrive in a Christian community in which they pray for, support, and hold each other accountable. They rejoice together through the ups and downs of a summer camp season.
Hannah, who was a camper through 10th grade and served as a counselor for two years, attributes much of her faith development to what she learned while attending camp and serving on staff. “Working at Pine Springs Camp has changed and challenged the way I think and act in regard to my faith,” she says. “My involvement with the ministry, and the support and learning I received, has been extremely valuable in my life, and I have been able to now take what I have learned from camp and incorporate it into my life at school and home.”
The Presbytery of Redstone ’s 79 congregations have 13,961 total members.
—Greg Davis, executive director, Pine Springs CampLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Richard“Skip” Noftzger Jr., executive presbyter
Rev. Gary Close, stated clerk
Cheryl Croushore, associate for Christian formation
Bobbie Martin, office administrator
Pine Springs Camp Staff
Greg Davis, executive director
Mike Hurley, summer camp director
Justin Shafer, adventure education director
Ellie Davis, food service and retreat manager
Amy Fahey, registrar
Dave Armstrong, facilities director
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Elder Ruth Farrell, PMA
Elder Ann Ferguson, PMA
Gracious God, we thank you for the dedicated leaders of our Presbyterian camps and conference centers and the ways in which children and young adults are nurtured in their faith as they grow toward full participation in the life of the church as adults. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Several congregations in Pittsburgh Presbytery are engaged in vital ministry with youth. Gathered from school districts throughout the South Hills, youth coming to Sunset Hills United Presbyterian Church learn that they are important in the body of Christ. Led by dedicated adults committed to raising up the next generation of leaders, the youth serve as elders, deacons, and “mission servants” engaging in hands-on ministry outside the church and throughout the country. “Jesus Christ is at the center of everything that we do,” says William Gracey, pastor of Sunset Hills. “We see the power of resurrection at work in all of the brokenness that happens at every place in the lives of youth and young adults. In every biblical story we see God calling people, and we want each youth to discover God’s call on their life.”
Crofton United Presbyterian Church has boldly partnered with a local public school to engage in ministry with school-age children. In this dynamic youth program, children receive both spiritual and bodily nourishment. From kindergarten and up, all children learn to pray, to sing, and to incorporate the Bible into their hearts and minds. The youth and young adults engage God’s Word by filming YouTube skits based on the “I am” statements of Jesus; the video is later shared with the whole congregation during Sunday worship. “This is all about discipleship,” says Pastor Sharon Stewart, “to bring the light of Christ to the children of the community and to help them discover that they are beloved children of God, called to be transformed.”
Pittsburgh Presbytery serves 33,881 members of 146 congregations and five new church developments and is home to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. It owns and operates Crestfield Camp and Conference Center in Slippery Rock.
—Rev. Ayana H. Teter, associate minister for outreach, Pittsburgh PresbyteryLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Kears Pollock, member, PMA Board
Rev. Dr. Sheldon Sorge, general minister
Rev. Dr. Douglas Portz, senior associate minister
Rev. Ayana Teter, associate minister for outreach
Rev. Dr. Beverly James, associate minister for discipleship
Rev. Jeff Tindall, stated clerk
Rev. Betty Angelini, executive director, Crestfield Camp and Conference Center
Elder Roy Burford, business administrator
Elder Lana Dumrauf, administrative assistant
Elder Cindy Miller, administrative assistant
Elder Cathy Nelson, administrative assistant
Kenny Summers, custodian
Dorothy Winter, financial secretary
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, fill us with power to proclaim your name boldly at every age, until all come to the knowledge and love of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Daily Lectionary
PennsylvaniaDisciples from Woodside Church clean up during “The Church Has Left the Building.”
“Don’t go to church. Be the church!” On the first Sunday morning in November, a growing number of congregations in the Delaware Valley cancel their morning worship services. Instead, after a brief prayer, God’s people launch out to be Jesus’ hands and feet in countless community projects. What started in 2010 with Woodside Presbyterian Church in Yardley has grown into a movement of Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and other congregations from two states.
The movement, which includes congregations from the Philadelphia and New Brunswick presbyteries, engages all ages in projects that bless local communities. In a single day, they stock pantries, deliver books to inner-city-school libraries, clean up trash, lead worship for people in recovery, make meals for the homebound, build shelters for the homeless, sew dresses for Haiti and, in 2012, cut up trees toppled by Hurricane Sandy. “The church is a sleeping giant,” one pastor commented. “On this day you literally see it wake up and get to work!” In the evening Christians from different denominations gather together for worship in various places.
It truly is a taste of heaven.
The day is really the culmination of 50 days of prayer, Bible reading, sermons, and small-group Bible studies. As they read about Jesus loving the lost and healing the hurting, momentum builds toward the day when they go out and follow in his steps. For more information, go to woodside-church.org.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia is home to 32,063 members of 126 congregations.
—Rev. Doug Hoglund, pastor, Woodside Presbyterian Church, YardleyLet us join in prayer for:
Ruth Faith Santana-Grace, executive presbyter
Kevin L. Porter, stated clerk
Lawrence S. Davis, business administrator
James Poinsett, acting associate for congregational initiatives
Andrea Cameron, accounting manager
Robert D. Williams, director, Kirkwood Camp
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Jesus, forgive me for thinking that church is only what happens in a building on Sunday morning. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Then send me to walk your talk and to be your hands and feet. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Let me introduce you to First Presbyterian Church of Wellsboro, one of the 44 congregations in the Presbytery of Northumberland. It stands proudly on Main Street, with its large front doors thrown open, welcoming people to the service. Inside those doors, stained glass windows throw colored light onto the congregation filling the pews. Their attention is held by the preacher standing at the pulpit in front of them. Behind him, the organist prepares to play. Across from them sits the choir, and that’s where our story begins.
Sitting in the second row of the alto section is Susan Prevost, and last year she had an idea. She wanted the congregation to start a project making dresses for little girls living under circumstances that would not normally allow for such things. The design was easy enough that anyone, not just people with incredible talent, could make them. They were essentially really nice pillowcases cut into dresses, with decorations sewn on; simple, but incredible to someone who has nothing. Her plan was submitted to and approved by the pastor, then presented to the congregation. At first only a few dresses were brought to the church, but that small trickle soon turned into a flood. People started dropping off new ones every week, and within a month the goal for the number of dresses was exceeded.
This combined effort produced nearly 100 dresses ready for shipping. The congregation decided to send them to southern Thailand and Burma, both because the pastor had a contact there and because the situation in that country was bad enough that it knew the gifts would be appreciated. Right now little girls in Burma are wearing dresses sewn by the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Wellsboro. I know I speak for everyone in saying I wish I could have seen their faces.
—JoAnna Wagner, high school junior, member of First Presbyterian Church of WellsboroLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dear Father, thank you for the opportunities you have given us to spread your word. Help us to serve you in all our words and actions and to show your love to the entire world. Thank you. Amen.Daily Lectionary