Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
October 9, 2019
We Lift Up In Prayer
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.
Upcoming Ordination and Commissioning Anniversaries:
The Rev. Dr.  Dan Saperstein  (10/3) - Executive Presbyter
The Rev.  Ewen Holmes  (10/10) - Interim Pastor of  Bay City-Westminster
The Rev. Dr.  Wally Mayton  (10/25) - Associate Pastor of  Midland-Memorial
The Rev.  Christina Jensen  (10/28) - Pastor of  Ithaca-First
The Rev. Dr. Shimon Pak (11/8) - Pastor of Saginaw-Korean
Elder Chris Wolf (11/14) - 15 years - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Marlette-First and Marlette-Second
The Rev. Tom Cundiff (11/27) - Honorably Retired


From The Lions' Den
Dan Saperstein
Matthew 25: Dismantling Structural Racism
In my last column I introduced the General Assembly invitation to become a “Matthew 25 church,” echoing Jesus’ story of the Great Judgment when those who have ministered to the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, and imprisoned receive the blessing of the King. Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40: “As you have done it to the least of these members of my family you have done it to me” has been selected by our Presbytery Moderator Chris Wolf as the theme verse for our Presbytery this year. We have explored what this means at our June and September Presbytery meetings.

The General Assembly invitation is part of an emerging denominational vision for mission. It includes three aspects: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty. Fuller information can be found on the Presbytery Mission Agency website:

My last column emphasized “Restoring Congregational Vitality.” In this column I will address “Dismantling Structural Racism.” 

Combating racism is central to our calling as Christians. Jesus challenged discrimination and racial stereotypes in parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 11:25-37) and in his interaction with gentiles such as the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-29). The early church broke down barriers of race and ethnicity (Acts 10-11) in bringing the gospel to “the ends of the the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Apostle Paul reminded the Galatians that in Christ “there is no longer Jew or Greek… slave or free… male and female” (Gal. 3:26-29). Presbyterians have a long history of opposing racism in society, and addressing racism is a core element of both our Confession of 1967 and the newly adopted Belhar Confession.

The Matthew 25 movement goes beyond mere individual expressions of racism to those embedded in social structures:

"Racism in the U.S. is a socially constructed system. Some people are advantaged, and others are disadvantaged, merely because of their skin color, ethnic identity or their ancestral background. Social power and prejudice have combined to treat people differently, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Some people are privileged while others are oppressed. As a consequence, there is unequal and inequitable access to resources such as money, education, information and decision-making power.  

"Structural racism can show up in multiple ways, including:

  • Housing discrimination that limits where people of color can live and steers them to rental markets rather than home ownership.
  • Laws and policies that deny people of color access to quality education, employment and adequate health care.
  • Food apartheid — areas deliberately devoid of quality, affordable fresh food.
  • Mass incarceration and criminal justice systems that disproportionately target people of color with lengthier sentences, “stop-and-frisk” laws, the over-policing of communities of color, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc.
  • Environmental racism — the dumping of hazardous waste, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of access to clean water that results in a range of serious health problems in communities of color."

The website offers an outline of a 21-day challenge to understanding and addressing structural racism designed for individuals and congregations. It would be a great idea for congregations to use during Advent or Lent.

I am pleased to report that the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Bay City has voted to become a Matthew 25 congregation. I encourage your congregation to join them and hundreds of others in our denomination. In my next column I will address eradicating systemic poverty.


Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
Records Review
We will hold the annual Records Review on three Saturdays this fall, each beginning at 10:00am.

October 12th  Flint-First
October 26th  Bay City-Westminster
November 9th Marlette-First

Be sure to bring your Session Minutes and Records books along with a filled out review form. 

Letters to Clerks of Session were mailed out earlier this month. Additional information may be found on the  Records Review  page of our website.
Parish Paper
The latest editions of the Parish Paper are now available on our website.

Topics for November and December are:
Learning To Love Variety In Worship Song Selection
Writing As a Tool For Community Engagement

As a reminder, there is nearly a decades worth of past issues available on the Parish Paper page of our website on a wide variety of topics. They are perfect for session training or small group discussions. Use of these by our congregations is included in the presbytery's subscription.
In Our Congregations
Harvest Dinner

Birch Run-Taymouth  invites all to attend their annual Harvest Dinner on October 17th from 4:00 pm to 7:00pm. 

Click here  for more details.
Fish Fry

Saginaw-Second  invites all to their annual Fish Fry on October 18th. Click here  for more information on the Fish Fry.
Haunted Trail

Grand Blanc-Kirkridge , October 26th 7:00pm. Our haunted trail began as a Halloween party, then a room in the building was made into a “haunted house.” After a couple of years we moved the haunted house to our prayer path through the woods. The next year we decided to offer our Scout Troop the use, and they began inviting area cub packs. We now offer it to the community asking for donations to the Food Bank as admissions. Two years ago it had grown to over 100 area children coming through on Saturday nightand, and about 200 Cub Scouts and friends on the following Tuesday evening – truly a mission to the community. Our trail is geared to elementary through middle school children with the “spooks” adjusting the fright levels by age group. Many parents have expressed their joy at finding something age-appropriate and affordable. Click here for information on this year's event.
Holiday Fair

Bay City-First will be hosting a Holiday Fair on November 2nd from 9:00am to 3:00 pm. Click here for details.
Italian Dinner

Mark your calendars for an evening of delicious food, wine, and mingling! First Presbyterian Church of Alma ’s Outreach Committee is presenting an ancora (encore for those of you who prefer French!) of the Fortino Italian Dinner of 2010. Chuck and Julie Fortino are preparing their secret family recipe (secret is no joke) and will be our hosts November 9 th starting at 6 p.m. All money raised will be distributed to other organizations in our community. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available by calling the church office at 989-463-2940. Only 120 tickets will be sold . Click here for more details.
Confirmation Retreat
Last month nine junior and senior high school youth from around the presbytery, along with three adult leaders, enjoyed a confirmation retreat at the Bay Shore Camp in Sebewaing.

The retreat was funded in part by a grant from the presbytery.

It was an uplifting and fun experience for all involved. Several students wanted to know when they could do it again.

"The retreat was fabulous! The youth experienced fellowship in making new friends and learning about God. I know I had a great time in co-leading this retreat with Pastor Philomena, our Presbyter's Vice-Moderator, helping our youth to understand their faith and spiritual walk with God." - The Rev. Scott Kroener, Pastor of Birch Run-Taymouth

We would like to thank the Revs. Philomena Ofori-Nipaah and Scott Kroener and Elder Don Wixson for planning and leading this event.
Disaster Preparedness
Are You Prepared

Over the past year and a half, in this column we have been dealing with how to help make the churches and members of the Presbytery of Lake Huron more safe. Subjects ranging from choosing the right fire extinguisher for your building, contacting local police and fire departments to help make sure the church building is safe, systems to enable contact with fellow church members in the event of severe weather or other emergency have been covered. We have dealt with making sure that your building has an AED and showing people how to use it as well as how to perform CPR. Most of the disaster preparedness efforts have been centered around preparation for the most likely emergency situations you or your church may encounter. Here in Michigan the most common disasters are either health or weather related. I truly hope you and your congregation are taking actions to be prepared for such an incident. If you need help planning or preparing please contact your regional disaster preparedness coordinator or me.

The emergency that we are the least likely to encounter is the one that we probably hear the most about. A shooter entering the building with the intent to do serious harm. While these instances are really quite rare, unfortunately they do happen and we should plan to minimize the likelihood of it occurring and discuss what to do should the unthinkable actually take place. Volumes have been written on this topic but I recently came across an article in Presbyterians Today that talks about what churches within the denomination are doing to be prepared. I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more and perhaps get some ideas that you can implement in your church.


CJ Merriman
Director of Disaster Preparedness