On a Sunday afternoon in August 2002—just a few hours after morning worship services—the walls of Andrew-Riverside Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis crumbled to the ground. It was not totally unexpected; architects had warned the session that the structure was deteriorating.
The small congregation was determined to carry on and find a way to survive. With the church property just a few blocks away from the University of Minnesota, Andrew-Riverside began worshiping at a YMCA on campus.
For 11 years the congregation worshiped and had a presence among the students at the university, participating in ministries that served international students. The presbytery helped with a loan to clear the building, leaving the little flock with a plot of ground for which it had high hopes. The congregation decided to seek the help of a developer to create a place for housing that could also accommodate a worshiping community.
After some fits and starts related to the economic recession, construction started in 2010. While the developer worked to complete the new facility, a portion of it, about the size of a condominium, was made available to the congregation.
In September 2013, Andrew-Riverside Church, after 11 years at the YMCA, moved into its new home. On the corner where the old facility had stood, a modern, four-story apartment building now stands, providing housing for students and local residents. The congregation’s worship and fellowship space occupies about half of the first floor.
Through it all, Andrew-Riverside was led by Rev. Harry Maghakian, the interim pastor who served until the congregation returned to its new home.
Like the mythical phoenix that rose from the ashes, Andrew-Riverside rose from a pile of rubble to worship and minister in its community once again. The congregation is committed to discovering the best ways to demonstrate Christ’s presence in its old, but new, location.
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area serves 66 congregations.Let us join in prayer for:
Elder Andrew Barron, member, PMA Board
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Eternal God, thank you for the signs of new life that give us hope during life’s dark times. Amen.Daily Lectionary
His Way, a grassroots social media ministry developed by young adults of the Presbytery of South Dakota, offers faith community to young adults. Using social media and monthly gatherings, participants share opportunities for celebration, prayer, pursuing God’s Spirit, and mission work.
Young adults, as they transition from home and familiar church environments to new school, work, or social settings, maintain contact with others in similar situations who share a common commitment to compassionate and prophetic discipleship. The His Way community has actually extended to people of all ages from all over the world.
Participants communicate with others through the His Way SD Facebook page, where they talk about ministry ideas, prayer, and theology. To satisfy their yearning to also engage face-to-face, they formed smaller regional groups. And once a month everyone comes together in a statewide His Way gathering where participants fellowship with one another, join congregations in worship, and do a service project such as assembling kits for PDA, remodeling at churches or camps, or filling food backpacks for local families.
Through this combination of social media and worship-and-service gatherings, His Way has created a new community for individuals in the presbytery and beyond to preach, proclaim, and recover their faith in a meaningful way.
The Presbytery of South Dakota has 63 congregations.
—Karen Paige Hunt, editor, Plain SongLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
God of every generation, we gratefully praise you for calling and claiming your people of every time and place—guiding us and inviting us to follow you. Be with us on our pilgrimage, granting us refuge in this ever-changing world until our hearts find peace and rest in you. Amen.Daily Lectionary
W hat does compassionate and intentionally connected discipleship look like? Envision four congregations across 1,300 miles working together to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy to rebuild their homes.
In a mission partnership extending from the Great Plains to the Atlantic Coast, two congregations in northwest Iowa teamed up with two in New York City to discern the best way to serve families still recovering from the storm.
The four partner congregations began by seeking guidance from Presbyterian Hope in Action (phianyc.org) in New York City, which directed them to the heavily damaged Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
Seven fundraisers later, 33 youth and seven adults from the Lake Park and Spirit Lake congregations in Iowa traveled to New York City to join almost 20 youth and adults from Presbyterian congregations there, including partners Madison Avenue Presbyterian and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian, but also First Presbyterian of Jamaica (Queens), Brick Presbyterian, and First Presbyterian of Manhattan. The team of 50-plus volunteers shared in worship, fellowship, and rebuilding work on six homes selected by the Friends of Rockaway organization.
Rev. Michael Gewecke of First Presbyterian in Spirit Lake created a theological prayer journal and devotional focused on the trip’s theme of light and love. It was used by those on the trip as well as those back home in Iowa, as a way for them to remember the traveling group in prayer. Gewecke also developed a website that was updated daily with pictures and stories from the trip.
These young missionaries were sent by love and served together as one body of Christ.
The Presbytery of Prospect Hill is home to 48 congregations and their 5,811 members.
—Paul Campbell, mission coordinator, Presbytery of Prospect HillLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, please keep before us the vision of what it means to be disciples. Generations before us have followed your light. May we continue to show love and compassion to people whose voices have long been silenced. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Keith Neill began his ministry in Portadown, Northern Ireland, playing in a Christian rock band and volunteering with the youth at his church. There, he felt the call to youth ministry, first part-time and then full-time. All told, he guided the youth of Portadown and Lisburn for 23 years.
In 2013 Keith and his wife, Jennifer, began to wonder if God was preparing them, again, for a new challenge. He interviewed at other churches but did not sense that they were the answer to the restlessness he felt. Upon returning from one such interview in London, he read an online ad for a youth worker position in Hutchinson, Kansas. It was uncanny, as Keith had been visiting Hutchinson for years, bringing youth from Ireland to participate in a Christian peacemaking project. In fact, on one such trip he brought his daughter, who met and eventually married a man from Hutchinson! Could this be the answer to the restlessness he had been feeling?
Many calls, prayers, and a successful immigration petition later, it became clear that Keith was being sent out again, this time across the world to serve God as the director of youth, Christian education, and mission at First Presbyterian Church in Hutchinson.
In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus sends out his disciples to travel from village to village to teach and heal. How excited and anxious they must have felt to receive such a call. And how many lives were no doubt changed by their answering it.
Our church is blessed that people still answer this call today.
—Teresa Waggener, coordinator, immigration issues, Office of the General AssemblyLet us pray
Loving God, thank you for continuing to move in our lives: for sending us and for sending others to us. Bless all whom you call to serve, whether down the street or across the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
2 Sam. 5:1–5, 9–10
“All Hail to God’s Anointed”
GTG 149, HB 146, PH 205
“Glorious Things of
Thee Are Spoken”
GTG 81, HB 434, PH 446
2 Cor. 12:2–10
“Amazing Grace, How Sweet
GTG 649, HB 275, PH 280
“The Lord Now Sends Us Forth” /
“Enviado soy de Dios”
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan
In 2010, our congregation made a momentous decision. In order to be good stewards of our downtown location and adapt to a changing ministry landscape, we tore down a beloved 118-year-old historical landmark to make way for a new facility on the same site.
The new building will be a smaller, more energy-efficient structure that is all on one level. Although it will incorporate restored stained-glass windows, we believe we have been called to offer the building as a resource for hosting new expressions of church in downtown Phillips, Wisconsin. Multifunctional by design, the new space will welcome experimentation in worship styles and approaches to Christian education as we together discern creative ways to make use of our different spiritual gifts.
While our pilgrimage from old to new has been difficult, we have learned a few things along the way that echo the clarion call to be a missional church:
• Simplicity: We have been “a church without a building” for over two years, weaning ourselves from accoutrements that are difficult to move or store. We strive to honor the hospitality of the local Catholic church that lets us use its worship and fellowship space by leaving as small a footprint as possible.
• Flexibility: We adjust our calendar to match our host church; we adapt our ministry to those who have asked to participate; we invite leaders from other churches (or from no church) to assist us in providing music for worship.
• Generosity: We tithe, which allows a 50-member church to both support a full-time pastor and move forward with a building program.
• Visibility: We identify with the downtown and are finding partners in economic development, social services, law enforcement, and public education.
The Presbytery of Northern Waters serves 55 congregations.
—Matthew Arneson, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Phillips, WisconsinLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Loving God, we know that the church is not a building but the congregation that worships within. Help us to live this truth. May we honor you by giving what we have while trusting that you will provide what we need. Amen.Daily Lectionary
North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana
First Presbyterian Church of Moorhead, Minnesota, gathers 80 for worship at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, and Fargo Korean Presbyterian welcomes another 40 into the same beautiful sanctuary at 1:00 p.m.
For 14 years this comfortable pattern held. But last year, on World Communion Sunday, the two congregations worshiped together for the first time! Rev. JaeJun Lim preached in Korean. Each sentence was translated aloud in English. He inspired us with a homily on Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Music from the new Glory to God hymnal allowed singing in both languages. For Communion, Rev. Lim and I stood together, one raising the bread and the other the cup. We had been polite neighbors, but the Spirit led us to be more. Since then the church has featured a permanent Korean banner, and we’ve served a massive cherry pie supper jointly. We are excited for future unity ahead.
All 62 congregations of the Presbytery of the Northern Plains seek to widen our Lord’s Table: working together for good and building relationships. Some support our Presbyterian college, the University of Jamestown. Others support our Native American church, Bdecean, and its new youth pastor and food pantry. Some grow our relationship with Chogoria Presbytery in Kenya by sewing dresses and participating in medical camps. Others cross denominational lines through strong federated churches, some even reaching over the Canadian border. What dividing distance is God calling you to shrink?
—Rev. Elaine Sveet, First Presbyterian Church of Moorhead, MinnesotaLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lisa Kirkonis, BOP
Rev. Shannon Kiser, PMA
Lord God, remind us that the tables we gather around are not ours but yours. Give us your eyes to see beyond borders, languages, and denominations, until all are shoulder to shoulder, worshiping and serving to your glory. Amen.Daily Lectionary
As part of our commitment to compassionate discipleship, our presbytery offers an annual mission trip in partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. While we always serve a location in need, our motives are not completely selfless: we usually head south in February for a brief respite from winter in Iowa.
In 2014, however, we deviated from our normal pattern and traveled to New Jersey to help with the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. The gracious hospitality extended by Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church, our host congregation, enabled us to serve. On one of the evenings, we enjoyed a community meal at St. Mary’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, across the street from Point Pleasant. We learned that St. Mary’s had sent a team to Iowa in 2009 to help rebuild after the flooding of 2008.
Twenty-seven folks from nine congregations participated in our disaster-recovery trip to New Jersey. Traditionally, the mission team has been drawn from the retired crowd, but we have seen a change in the last couple years. We had four teenagers, three people in their 20s, and two in their 30s.
Morning prayer and evening group time and prayer helped us to listen for what God was doing in each of us throughout the week. When possible, we also include a side trip to help us interpret the work of the larger church. In 2014 we headed to Princeton Theological Seminary for worship and a brief tour.
The Presbytery of North Central Iowa is made up of 7,216 members of 53 congregations.
—Rev. David Feltman, pastor to the presbytery and stated clerkLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. David Feltman, pastor to the presbytery and stated clerk
Kaylene Hoskins, administrative assistant and bookkeeper
Lee Nicholas, treasurer
Vicki Thordsen, secretary
Rev. Dr. Glenn Wilson, assistant stated clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, we pray for those who are picking up the pieces of their lives after a disaster. We pray that out of chaos hope will rise, and we offer ourselves humbly in service. In Christ’s name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
After being brutalized, beaten, repeatedly raped, and forced to do slave labor, Naw Wah* became pregnant, but her child died. In the mountains of Burma, death is no stranger.
This 25-year-old Karen (kuh-RIN) woman is one of several hundred who have been forced into slavery by Burmese soldiers who roam the mountains. Women who refuse are killed. A Christian, Naw Wah suffered persecution because of her beliefs.
After soldiers pillage a Karen settlement, villagers must move to another area and build a new village. The huts that make up a village are basic—woven grasses strung between four poles. Hut floors are dirt; there is no running water, no bathrooms, and no furniture. As they move from one area to another, many slowly migrate toward the border with Thailand, where there are refugee camps.
When Naw Wah arrived at one of these camps, she was safe from the soldiers, but living conditions were primitive. Food was not easy to come by; hunger continued to haunt her. But in the camp Naw Wah learned she could move to Omaha, Nebraska, to join other Karen people who live there.
The congregation of Mount View Presbyterian Church helped her get settled; people donated furniture and clothing. Several hundred Karen people meet regularly at Mount View for religious services.
The aging congregation does not have the funds to keep its building up-to-date as it serves the Karen community. Yet it continues to help and to hope that God will move others to do the same, so that the Karen can continue to worship at Mount View and not feel the pain of displacement again.
Mount View Presbyterian Church is one of 50 congregations in the Presbytery of Missouri River Valley.
—Bryce Brasel, Mount View Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebraska
*Name changedLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Heavenly Father, we ask you to bless the Karen people as they attempt to escape persecution and find their way to a country where they may live in peace and with dignity. Be with those who are still living in the mountainous jungles and the refugee camps. Guide those who have found their way to safety and can worship as they please. Give them the strength they need to survive. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The relationship between the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys and Occidente Presbytery in Guatemala has proven an exercise in mutual benefit. After years of shared exploration, a formal partnership agreement was signed in 1999. Since then, through delegate exchanges and network conferences, we have together sought God’s direction for shared mission.
One past project focused on clean-water access in Guatemala. Three friends from Occidente joined partners from our presbytery to train at Clean Water U in Oxford, Mississippi, one of two training locations for Living Waters for the World. After we combined efforts to install five clean-water facilities in Guatemala, Occidente is now operating those facilities and has the capacity to install more.
Recently, Occidente asked for assistance in “fortifying” their pastors. So we have come alongside to train these pastors in Reformed theology and to provide manses for their families and scholarships for their children.
Our presbytery has asked Occidente for assistance in developing a Hispanic ministry in our communities. We are engaged in a feasibility study to help us work out the details for this ministry. Through prayer and joint ministries, we seek to expand our support for one another.
The Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys is home to 60 congregations.
—Jim Krapf, chairperson, Occidente PartnershipLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Kathy Terpstra, member, PMA Board
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Almighty God, our Father, we thank you for our partnership. Our friendships nurture our faith. Accomplishing ministry through mutual efforts gives us hope. We ask for the guidance of your Holy Spirit to continue advancing your kingdom. Help us to develop transformed disciples who serve your purposes. Use each of us to share the gospel with your needy and lost children. We pray for the numerical and spiritual increase of the churches of our two presbyteries. May the unity of our mutual support be a healing witness to a hurting world. This we pray in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. (offered by partners in the two presbyteries)Daily Lectionary
The bitter cold of Wisconsin winters is even harder on those who live in alleyways or wooded river beds or have overstayed their welcome on a friend’s couch. Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, in the urban Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee, saw just how few resources were available to folks on the southeast side who needed a safe, warm place to sleep during the sometimes deadly winter cold.
Pastor Karen Hagen recalls the conversations that led the 60-member congregation to start the Divine Intervention mission. “We could have organized a planning committee and talked about reasons why we shouldn’t do it and why it might not work out,” says Hagen. “Instead, we saw it as an opportunity with dignity and service at its core. And we went for it.”
What began as all-night prayer vigils—after initial plans for a cold-weather shelter were blocked by local government—has grown into a year-round ministry in collaboration with more than 35 faith communities, various social service agencies, and hundreds of volunteers.
Throughout the winter, guests are invited to overnight prayer vigils and a warming room. Additionally, dinners are served year-round every Friday at various Bay View area churches. The Garden Keepers program offers two guests an opportunity to participate in community gardening from April to October as part of Tippecanoe’s hunger ministry, just.good.food. Other guests help to grow, glean, and give away fresh produce to the local hungry.
Larry, who came to Tippecanoe as a guest, began an additional mission, Larry Under the Bridge, which serves local campers and the homeless. Each week, program volunteers deliver bagged dinners and basic hygiene supplies to neighbors living on the streets.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this place,” Larry says. “They kept me here and helped me to get sober. It helped me want to be sober.”
The Presbytery of Milwaukee is home to 44 congregations.
—Erica Weber, member, Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, MilwaukeeLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Marilyn Gamm, chair, PMA Board
Craig M. Howard, executive director of strategic partnerships
Willem P. Houts, stated clerk
Sarah C. Rand, congregational care coordinator
Detlef Pavlovich, treasurer
Christine S. Halverson, office manager / associate stated clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Living, loving God, bless us with discomfort at easy answers, so that we may witness your love for every homeless person we meet. And bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28)
If God is infinite, then why does a sick woman in need of healing reach out to touch Jesus? When a girl needs healing, why does Jesus come to her bedside and hold her hand? For these people, Jesus’ presence and gentle touch were transformational, both spiritually and physically. Today, he calls us also to seek physical and spiritual wellness for ourselves and others.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) designated today as Active Life How do we, like Jesus, glorify God in all we do? Do we heal the sick? Do we keep our own bodies healthy? Do we praise God through work and play as well as words? Do we welcome people with all types of bodies—all colors, shapes, sizes, and abilities? Do we worship God with heart, mind, soul, and strength—or just the first three? Are we as brave as the woman who came to Jesus in the crowd? The first question is this: “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6b)
Active Life Church, which supports Active Life Sunday, is an online community and resource center that helps congregations share Christ’s good news and worship God more fully through physical activities and body-conscious theology. Learn more.
Christ, we thank you for being the Word made flesh. As you ministered to those around you through touch, sight, and sound, teach us to make use of our whole selves—body, mind, and spirit—to do your work. Give us the courage to take action and the grace to welcome all with a loving spirit. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
2 Sam. 1:1, 17–27
“My Faith Looks Up to Thee”
GTG 829, HB 378, PH 383
“Out of the Depths”
GTG 424, PH 240
2 Cor. 8:7–15
“God, Whose Giving Knows
GTG 716, PH 422
“The Woman Hiding in the Crowd”
Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota
Since 2008, Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) in Madison, Wisconsin, has been building a church without walls. Under the leadership of senior pastor Dale Chapin, our congregation is reaching out in a new direction through our international outreach ministry. Responding to the unique needs of internationals and their families, this outreach, which I have the pleasure of leading, promotes in-depth cross-cultural exchange between Americans and internationals. The ministry reflects CPC’s broader commitment to global engagement and allows us to show God’s love for those at our doorsteps.
Through this outreach, CPC has been able to initiate and develop meaningful friendships with internationals and other community members in a way that transforms lives. Judith Mayanja, a graduate student from Uganda at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, describes the ministry as “a therapy to her homesickness and culture shock.”
CPC member Mary Rathburn took a trip to Turkey that was arranged by a student she met at English Conversation Time, a program hosted by CPC. Every Friday night, the fellowship hall is transformed into a global forum as CPC members, people from the community, and international students from all over the world gather together for English practice and friendly chats.
We also have programs that serve the entire immigrant community. The Community Immigration Law Center was created in 2009 to assist low-income immigrants with basic immigration issues. Every second and fourth Friday of the month, CPC hosts an immigration clinic where volunteer immigration attorneys and law students provide free services. Since its creation, the center has served more than 1,000 people, including 10 successful asylum cases.
Christ Presbyterian Church is one of 60 congregations in John Knox Presbytery.
—Jean-René Watchou, director of international outreach, Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, WisconsinLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Heavenly Father, your unconditional love inspires us to be loving, welcoming, and hospitable to our neighbors. Pour into our hearts your compassion, and strengthen and guide us as we go forth to make your kingdom tangible. Grant us your peace, and surround us with your presence. Amen.Daily Lectionary
“I really needed counseling for my depression, which was affecting my whole family, but did not have the money to pay for it. Thank you.” Such was the response of a caller who had received support from the Nebraska Rural Response hotline.
In 2001, I began representing Homestead Presbytery’s 52 congregations on the Farm Crisis Response Council (FCRC), which operates the Nebraska Rural Response hotline for counseling and referrals.
The FCRC has been a ministry of Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska for almost 30 years. The number of folks who have been helped is staggering. On average, the hotline receives 436 calls a month, and more than 2,800 vouchers for professional counseling are provided each year.
Sometimes, callers just need to be heard. Other times, they need help with suicide, depression, or abuse and are therefore referred to counselors, lawyers, mediators, financial advisers, and so on. The FCRC is funded by all the major denominations with a presence in Nebraska. Help is available to anyone in rural Nebraska involved in agriculture. As the following sample of quotes shows, clients recognize the need for this ministry and appreciate its work:
You were both kind and helpful when I called, which is very much appreciated. It has been a tough year, and to have the counseling available means a lot. For myself and all those you help, I hope the program continues to be available for a long time to come. Thanks!
My husband died, and I was paralyzed with depression, fear, grief, whatever and needed help dealing with this. . . . So thankful this rural crisis program is available—have noticed it for years.
Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to fix our marriage and our family.
To get help for a young child, as to what to do or what to do next, was so helpful. Now we are on the right track. What a relief. Thank you so much.
—Rev. Duane Westing, pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Pawnee CityLet us join in prayer for:
Elder Regina Meester, member, PMA Board
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gail Kennedy, BOP
Elder Sherry Kenney, FDN
Lord, we lift up those in our rural communities who are struggling and dealing with terrible stress, abuse, depression, or even thoughts of suicide. We pray for those answering the hotline and that its vital ministry would continue. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The Holy Spirit is upon the Presbytery of East Iowa, where congregations and presbytery ministries are creating networks of mission.
A budding parish nurse network has emerged, as has a network of congregations addressing the needs of people living with disabilities. Many congregations are partnering with local schools in weekend feeding programs, while others have begun gardening and nutrition programs for at-risk youth with local schools and grocery stores. One congregation has opened an after-school tutoring and recreation program for early dismissal days, another has started a quilting fellowship group, and five of the 12 congregations hosting homeless families through a local interfaith hospitality network are Presbyterian.
The most amazing part of all this networking is that the resources needed to do the work were already in place. God had already provided before we asked, reminding us that God can do more than we can ever hope or imagine.
The Presbytery of East Iowa is a covenant community of 76 congregations and faith-based organizations networked to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18–19).
—Sarah Dyck, discipleship consultant, Presbytery of East IowaLet us join in prayer for:
Ruling Elder Rebecca Blair, stated clerk
Sarah Dyck, discipleship consultant
Rev. John Hougen, CRE dean
Ruling Elder Harry Hoyt, committee on ministry consultant
Pam Prather, finance / data management
Rev. Pam Saturnia, new pastor development
Rev. Robert Wollenberg, new pastor development
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
We thank you, Lord, for calling us to enter into the work that you are already doing in the area we call the Presbytery of East Iowa. We thank you for the resources you provided before we even knew we needed them. May the presbytery continue to glorify you in the coming years as we together discern your call to specific ministries. Amen.Daily Lectionary
W hat do you need in order to be compassionate and prophetic in your community? How about a bit of vacant land on a busy street. And maybe some volunteers to plant and maintain a garden. And a few more to collect and deliver its produce to area food pantries.
In 2012, Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Des Moines began a partnership with neighboring St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to sponsor a produce garden for area food pantries. While its organizers expected fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, they didn’t realize the garden would also provide a laboratory of compassion and care and the witness that prophetic endeavors touch all involved.
Faith and Grace Garden is used and supported by numerous volunteer groups and area schools. One high school uses the garden as an entrepreneurial science class. Drake University’s Head Start program, already held at Covenant Church, uses the garden to introduce at-risk children and their parents to good nutrition and help with language development. And Bhutanese refugees under care with Lutheran Services of Iowa spend one day a week in the garden as a way to help them adapt to life in the Midwest.
This urban land project, begun as a response to the gospel call to feed the hungry and care for the poor, displays our Lord’s good news through its compassionate and prophetic witness. The garden continues to teach all involved that strong commitment and hard work result in great dividends for many. Who would have thought it possible from a little land on a busy street!
The Presbytery of Des Moines serves 57 congregations.
—John Eft, ruling elder and codirector of Faith and Grace Garden, Covenant Presbyterian Church, West Des MoinesLet us join in prayer for:
Rev. Philip W. Barrett, general presbyter / stated clerk
Rev. Goanar J. Chol, Sudanese resource person
Rev. Katherine Pater, mission coworker in El Salvador
Betty Dyer, office manager
Nancy Lister-Settle, hunger action enabler
Cindy Eaton-Eklund, communications coordinator
Roberta Victor, executive director, CROSS ministries
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious Father, equip us to be an encouragement to those we seek to help, revealing Christ through the way we live. Form us, O God, into a people who praise your name in actions and deeds. Christ be with us. Amen.Daily Lectionary
The region served by the Presbytery of Central Nebraska feeds the nation: feedlots produce beef, the rich topsoil of the mid-Plains now yields corn rather than tall grass, ethanol plants convert much of that corn into fuel, and Hastings College nourishes students hungry for knowledge and values. Amid such rich production, however, is invisible hunger: long lines form for commodity distribution through the USDA, and the demand on food pantries within the presbytery grows each year.
To provide good news to the poor and release families from the prison of hunger, the congregations of the presbytery are responding in numerous and inventive ways. First Church in Axtell (pop. 726) provides a noon meal each weekday during summer vacation, satisfying the hunger of more than two dozen children for food, friends, and a safe place.
First Church in Lexington (pop. 10,230) loaned Community Fitness Initiative an empty lot to create a children’s garden, where students from local schools can help grow fruits and vegetables they may not often get to enjoy: carrots, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. Fresh produce is more expensive than potato chips, and parents struggling to pay bills understandably tend to choose the cheaper item. The garden, now run by the local hospital, continues to welcome the children’s help and distributes its produce to low-income families.
The stark contrast between rich land and hungry hearts has stirred others as well. First Church in Holdrege (pop. 5,495) and Westminster United in Minden (pop. 2,923) are working to establish summer meal programs for children in their communities. And the churches in Beaver City (pop. 609) gave out $8,000 in aid in 2013 to those saddled with bills they couldn’t pay.
The Spirit of the Lord has anointed the 39 congregations in the Presbytery of Central Nebraska to preach and share the good news that, through the grace of Christ, every hunger can be satisfied.
—Caroline A. Vickery, teaching elder, First Presbyterian Church, LexingtonLet us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, by your Spirit you inspire our efforts to feed the hungry, preach the good news, and share your love. Your people, all your children, are hungry for food, for friends, for peace, and for the good news. As you have fed us, bless our efforts to feed each other, for we serve in your name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
Finding time to be together can be a challenge. And while it is difficult enough for members of one congregation, the challenge is even greater when several congregations are involved. But during the Lenten season last year, the Presbytery of Dakota’s six congregations in the Sisseton tribal district found a way to do things together.
These six South Dakota congregations—Ascension, Buffalo Lake, Goodwill, Lake Traverse, Long Hollow, and Mayasan—coordinated a series of Lenten worship services and a shared Holy Week schedule. Each church had an opportunity to host one of the weekly Lenten suppers and services.
They also extended invitations to other congregations in the community to join in a shared meal and worship. And because the presbytery’s congregations can be found in four states, the Sisseton congregations reached beyond their tribal district to invite Pejuhutazizi Presbyterian Church, also a member of the presbytery though more than 100 miles away in Granite Falls, Minnesota.
Those who joined in worship enjoyed singing traditional hymns from the Dakota Odowan song book—a hymnal in the Dakota language. It is likely that those who enjoyed it most were those who still speak the Dakota language.
The opportunity to host and lead one of the services extended the reach of each congregation. Guest preachers filled some of the pulpits, widening conversations beyond typical boundaries. And friends and relatives in different congregations enjoyed the chance to worship together and to fellowship and share a meal.
Billy Kohl, the presbytery’s stated clerk, served as the accompanist for the services, playing both piano and organ.
The congregations hope to establish an association of elders and deacons to support and guide their leaders, who hope to build on this experience by developing a plan that coordinates their ministries and community activities.Let us join in prayer for:
Elder Billy Kohl, stated clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Most gracious God, we seek your presence whenever and wherever we gather together in Christ’s name. We know you watch over us and lead us. Continue to bless us as we look for ways to share our ministry with brothers and sisters near and far. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.Daily Lectionary
How do we treat God? We may decide to go to church, read our Bible, and pray regularly. You and I will do this for a month or two, and then we will uproot ourselves and disappear for a few months. Then we will come back again. Then we uproot ourselves and go back to the old way of life. Eventually we come back and reestablish our spiritual routines only to change again. But in truth we will never grow spiritually that way.
Jesus said: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). This is the secret of spiritual growth: to abide. To abide means to stay in a given place. For believers, it means maintaining unbroken fellowship with God. It is regularity. It is consistency. And the result of abiding is lasting fruit.
Another way of abiding is walking with God. As 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever says, ‘I abide in him,’ ought walk just as he walked.” Walking involves constant, regular motion. That means making time for the Word of God and prayer every day. If you are too busy, then get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. Isn’t it funny; we always find time for what is important to us. But if you and I are to grow and bear fruit in our spiritual lives, we must abide in and with our Savior.
As our church wrestles with policy decisions and our Presbyterian men’s ministry struggles to discern its mission, we see small groups of men throughout the country striving to change their communities by leading, assisting, and guiding others to know the love of Christ through service and discipleship. Does your church have a men’s group committed to fellowship with God, to supporting each other and their community? If not, please consider starting one, and invite men who have stopped coming to churchto set out once again on a journey that includes our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Honor a man in your church on Father’s Day by presenting him with a Church Man of the Year Award. Being a disciple of Christ is difficult but ever more necessary today. The world was changed because of this one man and his teaching. His call is “abide in me as I abide in you.” If we do, all is possible.
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have provided for us. Allow our lives to reflect the service and love you call us to share. In Christ’s name. Amen.Sunday Lectionary and Hymns
1 Sam. 17:(1a, 4–11, 19–23) 32–49
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
GTG 39, PH 276
“Sing Praise to God,
Whose Mighty Acts”
1 Sam. 17:57–18:5, 10–16
“Come, Thou Fount of Every
GTG 475, HB 379, PH 356
“There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit”
GTG 408, PH 398
2 Cor. 6:1–13
“Come, Labor On”
GTG 719, HB 287, PH 415
“Calm to the Waves”
In keeping with its commitment to wise and faithful service, the Synod of Lakes and Prairies continues to explore fresh ways to meet presbytery needs and to partner with neighboring synods.
At the center of the synod’s ongoing work is traditional support, including financial services to its presbyteries, leadership development training, racial-ethnic ministry support, and communication services. And one of the mainstays of the synod’s wider mission, its well-known Synod School, attracts more than 600 participants from across the country to the weeklong ministry each summer.
Through shared mission with the synods of Lincoln Trails and Mid-America, the synod also has recently expanded its outreach by answering the call to partner in two timely initiatives: Theocademy and just.good.food.
Theocademy is a series of theological education videos. The first set is for use in new-member classes, and the second will help ruling elders and deacons better understand the ministry to which they have been called.
The just.good.food. project includes more than 50 congregations, worshiping communities, and other PC(USA) groups in a gardens-for-giving effort that provides food to those in need. The project also includes a curriculum that focuses on the stewardships of creation and the theology of food justice.
The synod is home to 843 congregations and their 126,175 members.Let us join in prayer for:
Rev. David Crittenden, transitional synod executive
Elder Diana J. Barber, associate executive for leadership development
Mary Kes, office manager
Jackie Palmer, business manager
Elder Elona Street-Stewart, associate for racial-ethnic ministries and community empowerment
Elder Duane Sweep, associate for communications
Elder J. Jay Wilkinson, stated clerk / treasurer
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Gracious God, grant the Synod of Lakes and Prairies wisdom as it explores new ways of serving. Though none follow your path perfectly, we know your grace goes with us on the journey. Help us to serve others along the way. Amen.Daily Lectionary
New Life at Calvary was recently birthed through a merger of two PC(USA) churches: Calvary Presbyterian and Glenville New Life Community. But the roots of the merger can be traced back to still another congregation, one that met at 5:00 p.m. on the fourth The two churches were working together to serve the community a hot meal that would not only fill their hunger but enrich their souls. We decided that, in addition to offering a first-class meal, we would seat and serve our guests restaurant-style, with waiters assigned to each table. The praise team would sing for 30 minutes as the meal was being served, with short testimonies and invitations to church given between the songs. It was amazing to watch as the 90 to 115 guests from the community began to engage in the service: lifting their voices and hands in praise and asking for prayer. A few of the people would come up to help the praise team lead the singing. We were becoming a congregation within a congregation.
We did not recognize just how close we were to one another until January 2014, amid one of Cleveland’s coldest winters. One of the men who had always come up to help lead “Lean on Me” (“Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend”) literally froze to death in a field about a block from the church building.
At a meal the next month, we took time to offer a short memorial service. You could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet with the presence of the Holy Spirit. In that moment, the people of the community knew that they were special to God and a part of our church family. Four people from the Tuesday congregation are now faithfully serving members of New Life at Calvary.
New Life at Calvary is one of 43 congregations in the Presbytery of the Western Reserve.
—Rev. Rick Gillespie-Mobley, New Life at Calvary, ClevelandLet us join in prayer for:
Linda Badger Becker, transitional general presbyter
Jessica MacMillan, stated clerk and associate for equipping leaders
Susan Holderness, pastor to clergy and their families
Laura VanDale, hunger action enabler
Lee Lohr, staff associate to the general presbyter and stated clerk
John Luttermoser, business manager
Susan Gillespie, staff associate for hospitality and communications
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Lord, give us the willingness to love others to the point of sharing our faith intimately with them in deed and in words. Help us to appreciate the least of these in our midst. Amen.Daily Lectionary