Mid Councils Newsletter | July 25, 2016
I am writing this note on Monday morning, July 18, in order to meet the deadlines for submitting articles for this little newsletter. It strikes me that in the summer of 2016 trying to write something that responds to “recent” events is a tricky business. For instance, if I had written this last Thursday morning (and I often write at least that far ahead of a deadline) I would not have known about Nice, about Turkey, or about the shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge. Terrible tragedies and sure signs of a broken world where people feel so full of despair that they take desperate measures. So, forgive me if this does not seem to address whatever has happened in the week between when I am writing this and you are receiving it.
Even before this last set of horrible things that have happened in this country and abroad, I was aware of how frightened people are. After General Assembly, I went to see my chiropractor whom I see once a month. I used to be a person who thought chiropractic medicine was nonsense. But then my husband mentioned to his brand new chiropractor how sore my knees always were and she encouraged him to have me come in to see if she could help. She did and I have been going once a month since.
We started with her when she had just graduated and been certified to practice. We have been with her through a new boyfriend who became her husband; the birth of two children; and the establishment of her practice. We both remark after we have been there about how she uses us as a sounding board for spiritual matters. For instance, her husband is a member of the very large Lebanese Catholic community in Peoria. (It is an interesting story; an entire village moved here in the early 1900s. It means we have great Middle Eastern food here and great leaders. Perhaps you have heard of one of them: Ray Lahood was the secretary of transportation in President Obama’s first administration.) Our chiroprator talked with us about converting to Catholicism and what that really meant. She has admitted to each of us that when it is her husband’s turn to stay home with the babies on Sunday morning she sometimes sneaks into a big box church because she likes their style of worship better ☺. It is kind of a checkup for my spine and a little light spiritual counseling for her. I am sure you have similar relationships with the person who cuts your hair or walks your dog or delivers your mail or cleans out your gutters.
So, I was not surprised at the end of June when she asked me if I thought all of the bad things that were happening meant that it was the end of days. (Remember, this was several “bad things” ago.) I told her that the Bible reminds us that we will not be able to predict when history will come to its final culmination. Jesus makes it clear that it will come like a “thief in the night.” So trying to predict when we should be ready is not what we are called to do. Instead, we should live every day as if it were the last one we would be given. I also told her that I can remember another very hot, very bad summer when it seemed like there would be no end to bad news and violence. (This was before cable television and its anchors who seem to take some “joy” in the adrenalin rush of “breaking news.”) The summer of 1968 seemed like the worst of times to a twelve-year-old. In the spring, Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and many cities became scenes of violence and destruction, even medium-sized Peoria where people were burning things and looting and throwing concrete blocks from interstate overpasses onto the windshields of cars passing below. Then Robert Kennedy, who had been credited with keeping the city of Indianapolis calm when all of this happened, was killed in a hotel kitchen in California. Then the Democratic Convention happened in Chicago and all hell (or at least most of hell) broke loose. This was on top of the nightly reports on news programs of how many Americans, how many Viet Cong, and how many North Vietnamese had been killed in the last twenty-four hours and everything else that was happening in the world. I told her that there have been very bad times in the past and we have somehow found our footing as a country afterwards. As I left, she thanked me for the talk.
What struck me about that conversation was the thought there must be many other people like her who are frightened, along with all of the other emotions they are feeling. The pastors whom you serve are stepping into the pulpit every week trying to bring hope into the midst of that fear. They are welcoming people into their studies who have asked to speak to them because they have this kind of free-floating anxiety that has been heightened this summer and that pastor is trying to share the love of God in the midst of such sadness and fear. They are running into people in the grocery store who stop them and ask them what they think is going on in the world. As they try to quiet their child or set down the melon they were inspecting or tell their spouse to go ahead, they try to bring the good news of the gospel into the fear they see in this person’s eyes. All the while, they have their own fears and their own sadness on top of the constant drumbeat of falling attendance and shrinking dollars and rising expectations about their own role as leader of the congregation.
How are you helping your pastors cope? What are you doing for them to help them remember the gifts they have that have prepared them to do exactly this work to which they have been called? How are you keeping yourself sane and grounded in the good news of God’s love for all people? Perhaps a Psalm. . . .
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. [The Lord] will not let your foot be moved; [the one] who keeps ... Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; [the Lord] will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. (Psalm 121)
May you have the strength, the insight, and the faith you need to do the work of helping pastors and congregations to bring good news in the name of Jesus Christ every hour of every day.
Transition. Is your presbytery talking about change—change of mission emphasis, change of personnel, change of staffing pattern, change of budget, change of size, change, change, change! Every presbytery is having these discussions in one form or another.
In order to provide a place for the leaders in your presbytery to have a conversation with those in other presbyteries asking the same kinds of questions, The Office of the General Assembly is sponsoring a Practical Presbytery Leadership Training event. The details are below. This event is designed for a group of people from a presbytery, not just one or two. Plan to have your employed program staff there along with your other leaders—council moderator, presbytery moderator, COM moderator, moderator of the transition/visioning team—whomever you think could benefit from this time together. The topics will include the role of the presbytery; Presbyterian polity and the theology behind it; change; the transitional model for congregations as it relates to presbyteries; conflict; how to find diverse leadership for presbyteries; how to access national resources.
Get this event on the calendar for your leaders. Registration materials will be available in early June.
What: Practical Presbytery Leadership Training: Teamwork for Changing Times
When: Friday, August 26, and Saturday, August 27, 1 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Central Presbyterian Church, Des Moines, Iowa
Cost: No cost for the program or meals; travel and lodging paid by the participants
Registration: Contact Cheri Harper at email@example.com by August 1
Be sure to mark your calendars and share these dates with others in your mid council. All of these events will be in Louisville.
Moderators Conference: October 28–30.
Association of Mid Council Leaders (AMCL) and Association of Stated Clerks (ASC): October 28–30. (If you need more information about these organizations or would like to join, please contact Jeff Hutcheson in San Francisco about AMCL and Doska Ross in the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii about the ASC.)
Stated Clerk’s Polity Conference: October 30–31. This conference will end the evening of October 31.
Also PLEASE TAKE NOTE. If you have attended the Polity Conference before then you know that there is a price break for the first two people from a mid council who attend. In the past, this was assumed to be the stated clerk and the executive/general presbyter. With all of the changes in the way presbyteries are organized, there were some questions about this last year. This summer all mid council stated clerks will receive a request to let the Office of the General Assembly know who will be the two people designated to receive this invitation.
New Stated Clerk Orientation: October 26-28. For more information or to register, please contact Diane Minter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Stated Clerks, just a reminder to be sure to transfer pastors to their new presbytery as soon as you can. This is accomplished through the Stated Clerk File Cabinet.
|Baltimore||Jackie Taylor is the new leader; Mary Gaut is completing her service.|
|Boise||Daryl Wilson is the new leader.|
|Cherokee||Nicki MacMillan is the new leader; Rebecca Blackwell completed her service.|
|Cincinnati||Nancy Kahaian is the new leader; James DiEgidio completed his service.|
|Des Moines||James Koopman is the new leader; Phil Barrett completed his service.|
|Great Rivers||Allan Finnan is the new leader; Felipe Martinez completed his service.|
|Hudson River||Gavin Meek is the new leader; Susan Andrews completed her service.|
|Indian Nations||Aaron Carland has completed his service.|
|Kiskiminetas||Don Wilson is the new leader.|
|Mackinac||Ewen Holmes is the new leader.|
|Midwest Hanmi||Sam Young Kim is the new leader; Eun Sung Cho completed his service.|
Sallie Watson is the new leader; Ruben Armendariz completed his service.
Barbara Smith is the new leader; Kevin Yoho completed his service.
|North Alabama||Tammy Gregory Brown has completed her service.|
Melanie Hancock is the new leader; Edward Thompson has completed his service.
Robert Watkins is the new leader.
|San Diego||Michael Mudgett is the new leader; Clark Cowden completed his service.|
|San Joaquin||Les Hyder is the new leader; Sandy Brown completed his service.|
Sallie Watson completed her service.
Albert Thompson is the new leader; Samford Turner completed his service.
Michael Kuner is the new leader.
Jennifer Lewis is the new leader.
Edward Thompson is the new leader; Forrest Palmer completed his service.