Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
June 24, 2020
We Lift Up In Prayer
Elder Linda Spencer ( Deckerville-First) whose husband, Mark Spencer passed to the larger life last month. Click here for the obituary.

The Rev. Tom Brackbill whose wife Pam Brackbill recently passed to the larger life last week. Tom served the Alma-First congregation as pastor for several years prior to his retirement in 2018. Click here for the obituary.

Marquietta Davis, former long-serving Presbytery Staff member on the recent passing of her mother.

Staci Percy, Presbytery Staff member whose father-in-law, Donald Percy, Sr. passed to the larger life last week. Click here for the obituary.

Elder Don Wixson, Commissioned Ruling Elder of Vassar-First, who is being treated for cancer.

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. 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
The Rev. David Blackburn (7/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. James Neumann (7/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Linda Williams (7/1) - Parish Associate of Bay City-Westminster
The Rev. Tom Schacher (7/17) - Member-At-Large
The Rev. Jim Offrink (7/25) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Lindsey Carnes (7/29) - Transitional Pastor of Flint-Trinity United
The Rev. Robbie Carnes (7/29) - Pastor of Fenton-First
The Rev. Noel Snyder (7/31) - Member-At-Large


From The Lions' Den
Dan Saperstein
Most people I know have had this nightmare: you’re in school and find out that today is the day of the big final exam you didn’t study for in a class you haven’t attended, and you have no idea how you are going to pass. It’s a nightmare I still have occasionally, and I haven’t had an in-class final exam for 37 years.

Now imagine it’s not a nightmare, but the real thing. Then you come close to the experience of being a pastoral leader over these past 3 months. Pastors have been trained in the Bible, preaching, pastoral care, polity, theology, church history, and maybe in church administration. But I don’t know any whose preparation included video production, pandemic care, or how to run a church when you can’t meet in person. Or, for some of our pastors, how to respond to a 500-year flood.

To make matters worse, they face pressures from political differences over the severity of the pandemic and how to respond or when to re-open. For some, there are the financial pressures of unemployment in their congregations – perhaps in their own family. For others there have been cries of racial injustice and divisions over how to engage a resurgent and important national conversation over race and privilege.

Meanwhile, members are sick and dying, whether from the pandemic or other afflictions, and pastors face obstacles in exercising their role as spiritual caregiver that defines their personal and vocational identity and feeds their sense of calling and self-worth.

And they must manage all this on top of the stresses all of us face from the lockdown, the fear of contracting a potentially deadly virus, and the frustration from not being able to do many of the things we find most enjoyable. Yet, for three months, pastors have been waking up to that living nightmare and leading their congregations into new and adaptive ways of thriving in the midst of this sudden seismic shift in the tectonic plates of ministry.

All change is stressful. It doesn’t take much to see that many, perhaps most, of our pastoral leaders are exhausted. Some may find themselves getting burned out. So I am making this plea to our congregations: give your leaders a break. Now. Not when things “return to normal,” but now.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Instead of requiring a new livestreamed, recorded, or Zoom service every week, alternate with another congregation in your community or your presbytery.
  • Take advantage of the Pastor’s Sabbath service being provided by the Synod of the Covenant this week (see the article below) – or substitute it for an upcoming Sunday.
  • Respect time boundaries – try to keep phone calls and text messages to normal business hours.
  • Honor what concerns they may have about resuming worship in person too soon, knowing that pastors are especially prone to contracting the virus in church settings due to the number of people with whom they come in contact, in addition to their own risk factors.
  • Show your appreciation and gratitude in creative ways for the work they have done to meet these unexpected challenges of ministry.

If you are a pastoral leader and you are feeling you are in need of a break, or find it hard to cope, there are presbytery and denominational resources to help you. Don’t wait until things get impossibly bad to seek assistance. Contact me for more information.

There are many heroes in this time of national crisis – medical professionals, essential workers, social assistance volunteers, and more. Our pastors are heroes too. Let’s give them the break they deserve.


Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
Presbytery Office
Closed Sign
Presbytery Office Closing

The Presbytery Office will be closed the week of July 6th. Staff will all be on vacation and emails will be checked sparingly.
Presbyterian Planning Calendar 2020-2021

This 16‐month calendar (September, 2020-December, 2021) contains many planning aids for pastors and other church leaders. Includes lectionary for Sundays and special days, liturgical days, liturgical colors, resource information for PC(USA) programmatic emphases, updated synod, presbytery and Presbyterian Mission Agency staff directories, color foldout synod/presbytery and world maps.

Cost per calendar is $10.00 and all orders must be pre-paid either online or by check. Payment is needed by July 29, 2020. Unfortunately, there are no cancellations after this date.

You will be notified when the calendars have arrived (expected around mid-August) and arrangements for pick up or delivery can be made at that time.

Click here to order.  
Offering Plate
June Presbytery Meeting

The host church of our June presbytery meeting, Midland-Chapel Lane , chose for the offering to go to the Midland/Sanford flooding disaster. The total amount collected, all from our new online giving option, was $600 and it will be doubled because Chapel Lane is matching the funds. A grand total of $1200 was raised to assist the victims of the May 2020 dam failures.  
In Our Congregations

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Grant Follow Up

Flint-Trinity United received a $7,500 PDA emergency grant for COVID-19 relief in the Flint metro area, with the help of the Presbytery of Lake Huron.

Trinity United is working to assist non-profits and organizations who are working with those who experience structural racism, systemic poverty and those who experience health inequality.  We wanted to address the poor quality and lack of resources available to many non-profits. This project will provide PPE items and support to low-income workers and the organizations who serve those who are most vulnerable.

The large unplanned expense of PPE items has put a strain on many groups whose budgets are already lean. Organizations and non-profits can receive masks, isolation gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer and face shields from Trinity United and our community partners. This will create a safer environment for the staff and volunteers, as well as their clients. 

Edible Flint, a group that supports Flint residents in growing and accessing healthy food, was the first group to benefit from this partnership. They hosted their annual seedling give-away on June 6 that benefited 300 households. Over 100 cloth masks for adults and children were sewn by local sewers. Hand sanitizer was provided for the event and for the community demonstration gardens. And volunteers from Trinity United sorted and packaged the seedlings for the giveaway. 

Other churches can partner too, by helping us call and identify non-profits in Genesee County who need PPE items, by volunteering to help fill and distribute bottles of hand sanitizer and PPE items, or by donating items such as cotton fabric or money to put towards the efforts. We are thankful to the Deacons of FPC Fenton for donating money to purchase the first batch of spray bottles and joining us for a bottle filling party.

Synod Sabbath Sunday
Synod Offering Pastors and Worship Leaders a Sabbath

All of you who plan and lead worship services have been so inspiring since the pandemic began. You have met the challenge of coordinating worship that is meaningful in such an uncertain time, of navigating new technology, and of deciding the best format in your particular context. More recently you have worked to address the issues of racial justice that are all around us.

The Synod of the Covenant is offering you pastors, musicians, and worship leaders a Sabbath from worship preparation and leadership in recognition of your faithful ministry.

Interim Synod Executive Chip Hardwick is coordinating a service based on Romans 6:12-23, one of the lectionary passages for June 28th. You’ll be able to download the worship service as either the whole service (which will involve liturgists from throughout the Synod), or just the scripture and sermon. You could use this service on 6/28, or any time afterwards. You can download the worship service from here beginning 6/25/20.

Of course, there is no requirement to use the service! The Synod is offering it with hopes that many of our churches will receive it as a gift, to give you a Sabbath Sunday. For questions, contact Chip at  or 309-530-4578.
General Assembly

News from General Assembly

Coronavirus has not stopped the 224 th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from meeting. This week (June 19-27) the Assembly is convening virtually to conduct necessary and essential business to keep the church operational for the next two years. Plenary meetings are being held online on Fridays and Saturdays with other virtual events during the week. The public is invited to view the meetings on the General Assembly webpage (

Unlike previous Assemblies, there is only a single standing committee to manage the docket and recommend items for action this year or referral to the 225 th General Assembly in 2022. Most of the debate during the opening plenary focused on which items to address given the limitations of the online format, especially matters relating to San Francisco Theological Seminary, which was removed from the list of denominational seminaries after its merger with the University of Redlands in 2019.

The debate postponed the election of the Assembly Co-Moderators until Saturday. Following online presentations and Q & A, Elder Elona Street-Stewart and the Rev. Gregory Jerome Bentley were elected resoundingly on the first ballot. Street-Stewart serves as the executive for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies in St. Paul, MN and is the first Indigenous person ever elected as moderator. Bentley, an African-American, serves as pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, AL.

That the Assembly is able to meet at all is a technological marvel. Over 700 commissioners, advisory delegates, and corresponding members convene by Zoom meeting services, while managing business simultaneously on PC-Biz, the denomination’s proprietary platform for assembly business items, official advice, voting, and parliamentary procedures. Meanwhile, the moderators are able to manage all the speeches and motions using PC-Queue, yet another platform. Finally, all backstage discussion and production directions are taking place on Microsoft Teams. Thus, only a handful of social-distanced persons are needed to be gathered in the production office in Louisville.

The Assembly reconvenes with the official opening worship service at 11 a.m. Friday, June 26.
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
  • Re-opening considerations

If there are other items/resources that you would to see added please contact Staci Percy at