Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
May 21, 2020
We Lift Up In Prayer
Elder Don Wixson, Commissioned Ruling Elder of Vassar-First, who is being treated for cancer.

The Rev. Ken Hetzel, Honorably Retired, who has recently been proclaimed cancer free.

Our 20 churches currently in pastoral transition. (That is 44% of our total congregations.)

Our Mission Co-Workers:
Lucy Der-Garabedian  serving in Lebanon.
Cathy Chang  and family serving in the Philippines.
Michael and Rachel Ludwig  serving in Niger.
Upcoming Ordination and Commissioning Anniversaries:
The Rev. Alec Brooks (5/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Ed Borycz (5/12) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Dale Swihart (5/16) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Ahn (5/18) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Bruce Cunningham (5/18) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Joe Walser (5/22) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Roger Browne (6/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Philomena Ofori-Nipaah (6/2) - Presbytery Moderator
The Rev. Dr. Bob Emrich (6/7) - 50 Years - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Paul Ytterock (6/8) - Associate Pastor of Flint-First
The Rev. Ron Grimes (6/13) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Mike Loenshal (6/18) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Don Neuville (6/19) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Cassie Todd (6/19) - Member-At-Large
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Novak (6/24) - Pastor of Flint-First
The Rev. Ken Parker (6/24) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Andrew Pomerville (6/24) - Chaplain of Alma College
The Rev. Peter Russell (6/29) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Bob Taylor (6/29) - Honorably Retired

 

From The Lions' Den
Dan Saperstein
Over the past two months of sheltering in place, it has been easy to relate our experience of forced absence as a kind of exile. Like the leaders of Judah taken captive after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, we have been forced to “sing the songs of Zion” in a strange land of Zoom meetings and Facebook Live. And yet, most of our congregations have heeded the advice of Jeremiah to “ Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jer. 29:7) and not only adapted to their temporary inconvenience but found new means of worship and service. For many, exile has been a time of creativity and empowerment to broaden our understanding of “church.”

Now, as the first wave of infection has crested and we are making plans to return to our spiritual homes, we face a new challenge. As Thomas Wolf famously wrote, “You can’t go home again.” For us, as for the Israelites, our “home” has changed. The Israelites returned to find the temple destroyed, the city walls in ruins, and the nation divided between the “heroes” who weathered the exile and the “commoners” who were left behind. 

Similarly, when we return to our churches, there will be joy, but also a sense of dislocation. Social distancing? No passing of the peace? No congregational singing? Smiles hidden by face masks? As with the people of Judah, the task of rebuilding the temple and repairing the walls will take a long time. Like them, we too may never fully return to the spiritual home we remember.

Moreover, we may be faced with congregations divided between those who are eager to return to “the way things were” and those who are reluctant even to return to church for fear of infection. The people of Judah divided into parties of those who insisted on religious purity as a defense against change and those who accepted the new reality. When our churches return from exile, how will we fully include those who must keep away, who cannot be part of the homecoming? What will we retain from our experience of exile that will help us adapt to the new reality of being church? 

One of the creative products of Judah’s exile came from the influence of Persian religions on the “pure” religion of the exiles. In Babylon, the exiles discovered, and over time incorporated, new understandings of how God interacts with the world. They started seeing the world as the place of a spiritual battle between forces of good and evil. They began to see history pointing to an end that required a radical act of divine intervention to restore and glorify God’s people. They started longing for a Messiah to usher in God’s age of redemption. In short, without the experience of exile the Jewish people would not have been looking for the Christ. We, the church, are the product of exile.

We will soon be coming home. What will we have learned in exile about God’s plan and purpose for us? How will we be changed in ways that enable us to see how God is working in the world? And, what will we do once we see it? The result may just be a new church.

Faithfully, 

Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
June Presbytery Meeting Information
The stated meeting of the Presbytery of Lake Huron taking place on June 2 will be unlike any before it. For the first time, the Presbytery will be meeting virtually, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At its May meeting, the Presbytery Council made the decision to hold the assembly by Zoom conferencing service, except for a mandatory quorum of three elders and three ministers plus essential staff support. The quorum is necessary so that we can conduct essential business without violating our present bylaws, which permit persons to join a meeting electronically, but do not permit a meeting to be conducted in a fully virtual mode. 

Among the actions slated for the June meeting are a new policy on electronic meetings and a first reading of amendments to the bylaws to permit such meetings when necessary. 

Because of the newness of the technology and the challenge of deliberating at a distance, the Council is condensing both the worship and equipping parts of our meeting, and limiting business to essential and non-controversial items. Matters requiring complex parliamentary procedure will be postponed or referred. The entire meeting, we hope, will be conducted in 2.5 to 3 hours. Persons will be able to connect to the meeting on a computer, a smart phone, or if necessary, even through a “land line” phone.

Due to the new technology being employed, sessions are encouraged to consider electing commissioners who have both the technology and experience to navigate the meeting. A training session for ministers and commissioners is scheduled for 2 pm on Tuesday, May 26.

Information about both the training session and registering for the June 2 meeting is included in the call for the meeting which may be found on the Presbytery Meetings page of our website.
PDA to Assist with Flood Relief
On May 19-20, the failure of two dams led to historic flooding along the Titabawassee and Saginaw Rivers in the Tri-cities area. In addition, flooding also occurred in Alma, Mt. Pleasant, and Tawas. Many families and staff from Midland Memorial, Chapel Lane, and Tawas Area Presbyterian churches were evacuated and some have suffered property damage.  
While the waters were still rising, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) was already in contact with the Presbytery office to help coordinate relief. Executive Presbyter Dan Saperstein has requested virtual deployment of PDA personnel to help with the regional VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Assisting in Disasters) response group. PDA also indicated its interest in providing an emergency relief grant which will be requested as soon as the best way to use the funds can be ascertained. We are not aware of damage to church buildings but if there is damage, the presbytery may request up to five grants for repairing the buildings.
Our prayers are with all who have suffered displacement and loss from this disaster. We are grateful to PDA for their prompt response to our churches and their neighbors.
Re-Opening Consideration
Church
As many of our congregations begin planning for re-opening our worship spaces, there is one piece of planning that is easy to overlook: talking with the insurance company of the congregation. This is especially true if a church is opening faster than the current government and/or health authority directives.

It is true that churches in Michigan have had the ability to be open throughout the quarantine period. But that does not mean a church is free of insurance coverage questions. It is possible that your insurance company has certain requirements in order to keep full coverage in force, especially if a claim is made about COVID being contracted at the church. One of those insurance requirements could be that the insurance coverage is based on the church following health authorities directives. This is only a possibility.

Again, this is only a possibility. Each insurance company will handle each situation differently which is why a conversation with your insurance provider is a wise and simple step to take. Most times, if the insurance company has been consulted, any problems with coverage can be avoided. So take a few minutes, talk to your insurance provider, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you have questions, feel free to contact the Stated Clerk, Ted McCulloch.

Resources Regarding COVID-19
We have set up a page with numerous resources to help you navigate through this challenging time.

Among other things, our COVID-19 page includes information regarding:

  • Virtual Worship and Live Streaming
  • Zoom and online meetings
  • Funerals
  • Online giving
  • CARES Act and SBA loans
  • Denominational resources
  • Mental wellness

If there are other items/resources that you would to see added please contact Staci Percy at spercy@presbylh.org.