Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
December 12, 2019
We Lift Up In Prayer
Bruce Graham, husband of the Rev. Linda Graham , who is recovering from surgery.

The Rev. Philomena Ofori-Nipaah , Moderator of Presbytery, who is recovering from a car accident.

The Rev. Ken Hetzel , Honorably Retired, who is battling cancer.

All of our churches currently in 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.
From The Lions' Den
Sandro Botticelli - The Virgin and Child public domain

By Miko Stavrev - Own work, licensed for non-commercial use (Creative Commons)

A friend of mine in another presbytery has been putting together a nativity scene for the church’s Christmas Eve service. “I think it would be great for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to be people of color,” he suggested. From the response, you’d have thought he’d sprung horns and a tail and carried a pitchfork!

Christmas is a season saturated in tradition, whether personal, family, social, or ecclesiastical. Pastors know that you don’t mess with tradition without paying a price. Pastors know, for example, that “there was no room at the inn” most likely means the guest room (i.e., the “upper room” per Luke 22:11) was occupied, and doesn’t refer to a commercial establishment at all, but probably the home of a relative. Likewise, the “manger” wasn’t in a stable, much less a cave, but was inside the home. But as we say, those details won’t “preach,” and the nativity scene would look quite different set in a room off the kitchen.

No, people like their Christmas traditions unchanged. But what if those traditions prevent us from hearing and responding to the full biblical meaning of the story? Take for example, the baby Jesus in your Christmas nativity: most likely, the baby is white skinned, blond, and blue-eyed. How did that happen?

In a recent article, Baptist pastor Laura Mayo asks, “What if white Christians had a more realistic image of Jesus, a dark-skinned, religious-minority refugee?” She explains:

While shades of brown are debated, it is clear that Jesus was not white. The earliest depictions of an adult Jesus showed him with a brown complexion. But by the sixth century, some Byzantine artists started picturing Jesus with white skin, a beard and light hair parted down the middle. This image became the standard.

In the colonial period, Western Europe exported its image of a white Christ worldwide, and white Jesus often shaped the way Christians understood Jesus’ ministry and mission. Some 19th-century Christians, eager to justify the cruelties of slavery, went out of their way to present Jesus as white. By negating his true identity as a dark-skinned, oppressed minority, slaveholders were better able to justify the master-slave hierarchy and forget Jesus’ ministry to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

Our dominant, white Christian culture has white-washed Jesus. Instead of expanding our understanding of those who are different from us (including many who in fact look more like Jesus than we do), we have replaced them and their stories with a light brown-haired, blue-eyed lie.

The myth of the white baby Jesus goes hand-in-hand with the depiction of God as an old, white, male. They say more about our own values and prejudices than about the nature of God or Christ. They subtly reinforce what we consider “normal” or “different”; whom we favor and whom we disrespect. Early Presbyterians rejected all depictions of Jesus because limiting him to one identity limited his true nature and violated the Second Commandment.

A more satisfactory answer is to use a variety of depictions of Christ, showing how he belongs to all cultures and all people. You can find different cultural images of Christ here, and here, and here – plus many more if you Google phrases like “African nativity,” “Asian nativity,” and “Aboriginal nativity.” If we come to see Jesus more like those who look different than we do, we might just be more likely to see him in those people, too (Matthew 25:40).

Perhaps this Christmas, some traditions are worth changing. May your Christmas be holy and blessed!

Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
Presbytery Meeting Follow Up
Fenton Center For Hope was chosen to receive the offering from the December Presbytery Meeting. They are a food pantry, a baby closet, and a pregnancy resource center. They also provide a variety of classes as well as job skills coaching. We collected $464.00 for them.

The brochures regarding Two-Coins-A-Meal and EERN that were distributed in the packet are available on our website on the Documents and Forms page under the Brochures section.
Parish Paper
The first two editions of the Parish Paper for 2020 are now available on the Parish Paper page of our website.

The topics are:

January Repurpose Worship Space, Don't Rebuild
February Get To Know The Community Through Mapping
Annual Statistics
PC-USA Seal Round
Information regarding the 2019 Annual Statistics will be sent out the first week of January.

Links and information will be posted on our website at that time as well.
Office Closed
As a reminder, the Presbytery Office will be closed Tuesday, December 24th through Wednesday, January 1st. Email and voice mail will be checked on a very minimal basis by the staff during this time.

We pray that everyone has a safe and joyous Christmas and holiday season.
Mission to the USA
For three weeks in October, our Thumb area churches hosted an international mission partner from Rwanda – the Rev. Bienvenu Musabyimana. He came through the Mission to the USA program run by the Synod of the Covenant . The goal of the program is to create opportunity for cross-cultural learning and ecumenical dialogue with Christian leaders from other parts of the world. For the local congregations that helped host, this meant a chance to learn about Christianity as it is practiced in other countries, grow in understanding about the global body of Christ, and also to make a personal connection with someone representing one of our denomination’s international mission connections.
Normally, a single larger church would host for the entire three weeks, but in 2014 the Thumb Ministry Group applied as a cohort of small churches, and were chosen to participate. We welcomed Fady Amin from Iraq. We applied again last spring, and were enthusiastically invited to participate again. Rev. Rafaat Zaki, our Synod Executive, was especially excited about how our 15 Thumb area Presbyterian Churches are working together to pool resources and people to be able to sponsor ministry opportunities that our small churches cannot do on their own.

Rev. Musabyimana is president of the Presbytery of Kigali, of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda. He traveled among our Thumb churches, participating in worship, Bible studies, fellowship dinners, and in several different food distribution ministries. He got to visit Alma College, ride a sugar beet harvester, see the freighters on Lake Huron. At each stop, he also got to speak and show photos of church life in Rwanda. It is a Christian majority country, over 90% Christian. The Presbyterian Church is growing quickly, and the challenges are a shortage of clergy and largely poor membership that struggle to finance the ministries. The result is very strong leadership of Elders, including regular preaching and pastoral care, and very involved members who understand outreach and evangelism to be the role of every member. Rev. Musabyimana described how the clergy itinerate, and in their absence, how every group in the church steps up to lead worship: every month, the women, the men, the youth, the children, are each responsible for a worship service. Everyone is actively engaged.

For our Thumb congregations, it was a rare opportunity to connect with the larger body of Christ, and a part of the world we will never get to. If your congregation is interested in participating in the future, Katja Gruening, Sally Pomeroy, Chris Wolf, and Don Wixson were very involved in the planning this year, and would be happy to speak with you.

Rev. Musabyimana and the Thumb delegation also paid a visit to the Presbytery Office. We enjoyed a great time of food and fellowship.
Disaster Preparedness
There is a well-known phrase that has been used to sell various items over the years that claims they are “the gift that keep on giving”. This saying was first used in the 1920’s by the Victor Radio Corporation to sell it’s new talking machines. Since then the phrase has been used to sell many different things from radios, stoves, cameras and pretty much everything in between. I’ll let you decide whether these items really keep on giving, however, there are gifts we can give that truly do keep this promise.

You have probably already figured out where I’m going with this but there is a gift we all want that truly does keep on giving. The gift of feeling safe and secure in our homes, our communities, and our churches. The assurance that you and your church have done the best you can do in preparing for potential emergencies. The confidence that you have the necessary equipment and trained people in place should a fire or serious medical emergency occur. The assurance that your church can be quickly evacuated if necessary, with leaders readily available to assist those who may need help. The knowledge that your church leaders have seriously thought about and planned for a variety of potential emergencies that could occur. When you have these things in place your church is giving a “gift that keeps on giving”

The Presbytery of Lake Huron is serious about providing the resources to help you prepare for emergencies and assist should one occur. Of the many resources available to your church among the most valuable are the Regional Coordinators and the Assistant Director of Disaster Preparedness.

Debbie Grant
Assistant Director
(810) 695-3714

Andrew Miller
Regional Coordinator for Region I

Tom Ryden
Regional Coordinator for Region II

Georgia McCall
Regional Coordinator for Region III

Currently Region IV is open

Make use of these folks, they are there to help your church be prepared and should a disaster occur they are your connection to the presbytery and other outside agencies. There is also an Emergency Preparedness link on the presbytery website which will connect you to other information. To get help, all you must do is ask. If you and your church do the things listed above you will have taken a major step in giving “the gift that keeps on giving”.

As we go through this season of Advent and very soon Christmas, once again we celebrate the wondrous gift of Jesus’ birth. That is when we encounter the ultimate gift that “keeps on giving”. I wish you and your families a hopeful Advent and a most joyous and safe Christmas, and all the blessings that come with it.

CJ Merriman
SE Asia Travel Study Seminar Organizing
SE Asia Travel Study Seminar Organizing

Join Mission Coworker Cathy Chang on a 14-day travel study seminar of Southeast Asia organized through the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program! The seminar, which will run from May 1-15, will focus on the root causes and current challenges of forced migration and labor trafficking. The trip includes two days of travel, seven days in the Philippines and five days in Hong Kong.

The objectives of the seminar are:
  • To understand the role of the church in the context of forced migration and the struggle of migrants for human rights, justice and decent lives
  • To share reflections following the seminar to strengthen partnerships between PCUSA, UCCP and other migrants-serving organizations
  • To create a communique/statement to share with the PCUSA and other potential partners
  • To stay open to new insights, initiatives and outcomes

The cost of this seminar is $2,500. Cost is per person double occupancy including all seminar expenses (meals, accommodations, program, tips, tours, in-country transportation and airline travel from Manila to Hong Kong during the seminar). International airline transport from and returning to the United States at the beginning and end of the seminar is not included.

Peacemaking scholarships for some of the cost may be available through the presbytery mission committee and participating churches.

More information can be found here . A complete tentative itinerary is available from the Presbytery office.

If you might be interested, please notify the Presbytery office by January 1, or as soon thereafter as possible. 
Interfaith Prayer Service
Interfaith Prayer Service in Saginaw

On November 24 th at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Saginaw, religious community laid open the great variety of faith traditions alive and well in our Great Lakes-Bay Region.

This is how I describe what happened at the Interfaith Service held that afternoon, because when we have an opportunity to participate in such a Service, we experience the truth that at the very heart of what it means to be human lies the fact we are called to worship God, for “when goodness reigns, the light lifts the heart; the heart opens the soul; the soul frees the mind. Thus it is that we give all glory and honor to God, in the unity of being human.”

Pastor Karen Blatt

Participating Faith Communities: Baha’I Faith, Christ the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Dharma Gate Zen North, First Presbyterian Church (USA) Saginaw, First United Methodist Church of Saginaw, Islamic Center of Saginaw, Jain Society, Lewis Temple Church of God in Christ, Mid-Michigan Singh Sabha, Presbyterian Kirk of the Lakes (USA),Houghton Lake, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, St. John Episcopal Church, Temple Beth-El Midland Synagogue Congregation, Tri-City Hindu Temple
Help Wanted
Saginaw-Second is looking for less than full-time person to direct, accompany, recruit for Adult Choir, Adult Bell Choir. Coordinate music, accompany regular 9:30 a.m. worship service and special worship services. Develop new choirs and music components. Coordinate “outside" special music performances at Second Presbyterian. Seeking diversity and quality in program with an appeal to all age groups. Proficiency in organ and piano, some knowledge of handbells helpful, knowledge of voice, training in music for children and youth. People and organizational skills. Position available: January.  Salary: $30-36,000, based on experience and education. / or find us on Facebook.

Contact: Fred Herter at .