Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
December 16, 2020
We Lift Up In Prayer
Our churches currently in pastoral transition.

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. Dr. Rod Shoemaker (12/2) - Member-At-Large
The Rev. Joy Smith (12/3) - Interim Pastor of Alma-First
The Rev. Brant Piper (12/15) - Designated Pastor of Saginaw-Countryside Trinity
The Rev. Dr. Lucy Der-Garabedian (12/19) - Mission Co-Worker
The Rev. Rich Lawther (1/4) - 45 Years - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Scott Kroener (1/19) - 35 Years - Pastor of Birch Run-Taymouth
The Rev. Alex Peterson (1/22) - Pastor of Lapeer-First
The Rev. Elizabeth Stilwell (1/22) - Member-At-Large

We ask that you consider including these requests each week in your bulletin and/or newsletter.
 
We also encourage everyone to send a card or e-mail or make a phone call to those listed. Sometimes a small gesture creates a big smile. 

Contact information for anyone on this list may be obtained by calling the presbytery office at 989-799-7481 or replying to this email.
From the Lions’ Den
Dan Saperstein
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent the Son…” – Galatians 4:4a

Is it 2021 yet? I have never known a year to which people are happier to bid farewell than 2020. My preacher daughter notes that the year has been so filled with traumas, tragedies, and troubles that future historians may specialize in this one momentous year, or even a small part of it.

In early 2020 we witnessed a presidential impeachment that further divided a polarized nation; Australian brushfires that killed an estimated one billion animals; the beginnings of a global pandemic, a national lockdown, and an economic catastrophe.

Mid-2020 was marked by the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, whose death – and pleas for help – were caught on tape for the world to see. Along with the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and numerous others, it sparked a summer of protests and counter-protests over systemic racism in America. Climate change stuck home as hurricanes pummeled the South and wildfires consumed the West.

Late 2020 featured a controversial Supreme Court appointment, a national election, and civil unrest over claims – all debunked – of voter fraud. COVID-19 resurged with a vengeance, leading to unprecedented levels of infections. A pandemic-fatigued nation now faces a bleak winter of more isolation and death. And as churches come to terms with suspended or virtual holiday celebrations, we grieve the loss of the familiar rituals and traditions that anchor our faith. This grief is exhibited as increased anxiety and conflict in many congregations even as we proclaim peace and goodwill.

In the end, it is the death that we will remember. Already over 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 – the equivalent of five Vietnam Wars in a single year. And so many icons are gone, from Kobe Bryant to John Lewis to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Alex Trebek, as well as lesser-known heroes: front-line doctors, nurses, hospital workers and nursing home caregivers.

So, we may be excused for asking, “Is it 2021 yet?”

I have been living with the lectionary texts for December 27 this month. The biblical lessons for the First Sunday of Christmas deal with the passage of time. In Luke 2, a devout man named Simeon and an aged prophetess named Anna encounter the infant Christ in the Temple and see in him the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation. In Galatians 4, the apostle Paul declares, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent the Son… to redeem those who were under the law.” Other translations read, “When the time was fulfilled….” The point is the same: in Christ, the world has reached a chronological watershed. The old epoch is passing, and a new one has begun.

The readings for December 27 remind us that the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle of the Christian Year has a tri-focal view of time. We look back to God’s historic promises from the beginning of time for a redemption to be revealed; as with Simeon and Anna, we behold in Christ the coming of our Redeemer, present with us now; and we look forward to the new Day when suffering and death and tears will be no more.
As Christians we live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of God’s redemption in Christ. The new creation has begun in Christ, and we experience it in moments of grace and blessing now, but we await in hope its fullness at the end of time. Indeed, the last two sentences of scripture are “Come Lord Jesus!” and “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.” Already, but not yet.

Few, if any, will mourn the passing of 2020. But even now, even amid pandemic, injustice, natural disaster, and national division, the time is fulfilled; Christ has come. The fullness of God’s new creation is closer now than ever. Let us live as those who have glimpsed the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. May his peace rule our lives, and his justice reign in our world.

Faithfully, 

Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
Advent Services Available To Stream
The Synod of the Covenant is offering weekly Advent services to stream free of charge. The Presbytery of Lake Huron has provided the content for the December 27th service.

Pastors, worship leaders, musicians, and tech gurus have worked so consistently to create and offer meaningful worship services during the pandemic. Words we would have rarely associated with worship before March (e.g., Zoom, Facebook Live, Vimeo, YouTube, and more!) are now part of our regular vocabulary and planning. Of course, these leaders are still investing heavily in sermons, music, liturgy, and prayers that are as powerful as ever.

To thank you for your hard work, the presbytery and synod staff leaders are planning virtual worship services which you can use for worship throughout Advent. You’ll be able to live stream or download the sermons and scriptures or the whole service, and of course you can choose to use one, all, or none of these services. The presbytery and synod leaders offer these as a gift to thank you for your incredible ministry all year long.

Click here to view/download the December 27th service led by our Executive Presbyter, the Rev. Dr. Dan Saperstein, several presbytery leaders and our Mission Co-Workers.
Join A Prayer Study Group
From our Presbytery Moderator, and Interim Pastor of Saginaw-Second the Rev. Philomena Ofori-Nipaah:

I am looking for clergy and lay leaders to participate in the 3 month prayer project for my Doctor of Ministry project. It will be similar to what I shared during the September meeting. The meeting will be virtual via Zoom in a total of 5 times lasting for 30 minutes. All who are interested should contact Philomena at either: nhyira5@gmail.com or 301-974-7879.

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This is an outline of what the Prayer Study will look like, each participant will be assigned to a group for their daily practice, the Nehemiah’s Prayer group (A), The Lord’s Prayer group (B) and Personal Prayer group (C). Besides participants daily prayer, there will Zoom check in every other week.

Group A-Nehemiah’s Prayer Outline: Nehemiah 1:1-11
Participants will use this format to pray for 5-10 minutes daily.

  1. Praise God
  2. Confession of sins I/we to God
  3. Promised of God with humility
  4. Petition for needs I/we to God
 
Group B-The Lord’s Prayer Outline: Matthew 6:9-13
Participants will use this format to pray for 5-10 minutes daily. The participants will choose one petition numbered below to pray slowly for the whole day, at any time during the day.

  1. Our Father in Heaven, Hollowed be thy Name
  2. Your Kingdom come
  3. your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
  4. Give us this day our daily bread
  5. Forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors
  6. And do not bring us to the time of trial
  7. But rescue us from evil, Amen.

Group C-Personal Prayer
Participants in this group will use a prayer of their choice for 5-10 minutes daily

MDHHS Community and Faith-Based Programs
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recognizes the importance and necessity of viable community and faith-based relationships to fulfill its mission to promote and protect the health, wellness, and safety of Michigan residents. The Office of Community and Faith Engagement and the Community and Faith-Based Initiative on Foster Care and Adoption lead MDHHS' efforts to build and support partnerships with community and faith-based organizations to better serve the children and adults that live in their communities.

The Office of Community and Faith Engagement (OCFE) promotes collaboration between government, community organizations, and faith leaders to improve the quality of life for Michigan residents, with specific efforts to inform organizations of federal/state resources and grants, and also to convene community and faith leaders to support program areas that directly impact Michigan's most vulnerable adults, children, and families.

The Community and Faith-Based Initiative on Foster Care and Adoption (CFBI) seeks to build partnerships with local community leaders, business representatives, and faith leaders to meet the needs of foster and adoptive children and their families, by promoting awareness of the need for quality foster and adoptive parents and connecting children and youth to supportive resources and relationships.

We welcome individuals, community leaders, business representatives and faith leaders of all religions to learn more and join our efforts. Together, we can provide opportunities, instill hope, and empower Michiganders to thrive.

Click here to visit their webpage.
From An Honorably Retired Member of Presbytery
Retired Pastor, Dale Swihart has written a book of poetic meditations, paired with some of his photographs. He has been writing these blank verse poems since the start of the pandemic as a therapeutic way of coping. He has also been sharing them via email and Facebook. The book is entitled, Catching Falling Stars: Poems for COVID and Beyond. It contains the first three months of writings. Volume 2 is in the works. The book can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here.

You can contact Dale at daleswihart@gmail.com.
NEXTChurch is Free is 2021
BREAKING, BLESSING, BUILDING
A Call For The Common Good
A FREE Live-Streamed Gathering for ALL Church Leaders
March 5-7, 2021

COVID-19, a pandemic of racism in the United States, economic distress. Our reality right now helps us know that things need to change for the good of us all.

What if people like you and me could gather together from all over the world, from all kinds of different churches and denominations, from all different walks of life?

What if church leaders (YOU, not just your pastor) could connect with other church leaders to learn together, be inspired by one another, and be challenged to grow?

What if we gathered together in such a way that inspired us to act so the Church and the world were never the same again?

Despite the physical space that separates us these days, we believe our virtual togetherness can make all the difference. Will you join us March 5-7 for the 2021 NEXT Church National Gathering as we Break, Bless, and Build: A Call for the Common Good?

Click here for more information and to register.
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
  • Grants and loans
  • Denominational resources
  • Mental wellness
  • Re-opening considerations

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