|News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Editor's Note ...
Just in case you noticed its absence, Keeping in Touch is back. January has been an unusual month. Perhaps it could best be described, as written by a colleague, as "unexpected requirements on available staff." We're going with that. Below is an attempt to summarize a few of the events of the past five or six weeks.
Rick Carus, former executive
of Minnesota Valleys, dies Jan. 28
Rick Carus, who served from October 2013 to the end of March 2017 as transitional executive presbyter in the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, died Jan. 28. He was 68. Ordained in 1974, Carus was a graduate of Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Before coming to Minnesota Valleys, Carus had served pastorates in Nebraska and Arizona, and served as associate general presbyter for Grace Presbytery in Texas. Memorial services were held Feb. 1 at Apostle Presbyterian Church in West Allis, Wisconsin, and are planned Monday, Feb. 5, at Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A list of memorial gift possibilities can be found in the current edition of The Valley Bridge, the newsletter of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys.
Carus used the final episode of M*A*S*H as his theme for his final column in the March 29, 2017, edition of The Valley Bridge. He noted, "The title of the episode 'Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,' I think, conveyed three very significant actions ... While they were happy to say goodbye to the war and all that it brought, they found it hard to leave behind the friendships and the work that was accomplished." That complete column can be found at "Farewell."
Westminster in Minneapolis opens
new wing as connection to the community
Westminster Presbyterian Church opened its spacious new wing on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, with more than 1,100 people celebrating the connection of their 121-year-old church to a new building full of sunlight and color. But beyond the stone, wood and copper-covered lead that blend this Romanesque church with its modern addition is this congregation's conviction: This space will serve as a ministry tool connecting them to the community. The celebration was aimed not just at the edifice, but at the energy and collaboration it embodies, said pastors of Westminster and two smaller partners, Liberty and Grace-Trinity community churches in Minneapolis. The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Joy Powell can be found at "Connecting to Community."
Street-Stewart challenges churches
to disavow doctrines of domination
Elona Street-Stewart, a leader in both the American Indian community and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a forceful challenge to the Minnesota Council of Churches when she spoke Dec. 14 at the installation of Curtiss DeYoung as head of the Minnesota Council of Churches. She said institutions -- including religious ones -- "are designed to maintain and protect systems of privilege." She called on the church to "disavow and repudiate all doctrines of domination, and acclaim the rights of indigenous peoples. Please learn from us, and do not preside over us." Street-Stewart, executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies of the PC(USA), is a member of the Delaware Nanticoke nation. The installation took place at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. The complete story is at "Rights of Indigenous People."
The Academy: training ruling elders
for greater responsibilities
What is a small, isolated Presbyterian church to do if it can't afford to hire an ordained pastor? As that dilemma becomes more common, several Midwestern presbyteries and the Synod of Lakes and Prairies are collaborating on coursework to train elders for greater responsibilities. The Academy, as the new program is known, began last summer at Lakes and Prairies' Synod School and will conclude in a year and a half, after its initial cohort goes through 11 classes together. New cohorts will enroll and begin the course every summer. The hope is that many will go on to become commissioned lay pastors, serving their home church or another in their area that needs leadership. The complete Presbyterian News Service story by David Lewellen can be found at "The Academy."
Clearwater board announces
resignation of Rich Swartwood
Rich Swartwood, who has been executive director at Clearwater Forest for nearly four years, will be leaving his current post and accepting the call to be executive director of a camp in Mississippi, a position he will assume Feb. 5. The announcement came in a statement from Jon Kirschhoffer, president of the Clearwater board. Kirschhoffer noted, "We are grateful for Rich's nearly four years of dedicated service and wish him and his family the very best as he moves to this new opportunity." In his resignation, Swartwood wrote, "This journey has been God-filled and led. This move will allow my family to relocate closer to my immediate and extended family and use my skills in a new setting." The complete letters can be found at "Clearwater Forest."
From wringing hands
to praying hands: The Sower
"There seems to be a lot of 'wringing of the hands' in [Presbyterian Women] circles, church pews, presbytery and synod PW coordinating team meetings these days. ... How about joining hands as a Presbyterian Women 'body' and together reposition those hands from a wringing posture to a posture of prayer, and watch this valuable group that we belong to transform before our eyes." That's what Sue Kimball, moderator of the coordinating team of Presbyterian Women in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, writes in the January edition of The Sower, the newsletter of the organization. That newsletter, and Kimball's column, can be found at "The Sower."
Retired Twin Cities Area
minister to preach on 'Day 1'
The Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, author, public theologian, and a retired minister member of Twin Cities Area Presbytery, will be the featured preacher Sunday, Feb. 18, the first Sunday of Lent, on "Day 1," with host Peter Wallace, the nationally broadcast ecumenical radio program that is also accessible online at Day1.org. Stewart has served campus ministries and pastorates in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, and Minnesota over the past 47 years. Stewart is the author of "Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness," and his commentaries have aired on Minnesota Public Broadcasting and NPR.
|Conferences, camps, resources
PC(USA) offers Christian-Muslim
There's a Christian-Muslim relations toolkit available on the website of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The toolkit, according to the PMA website, "provides resources for [Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)] congregations interested in engaging with the Muslim neighbors." The resource will help congregations "better understand, connect with and advocate for our Muslim brothers and sisters," the website notes. The toolkit is available at "Christian-Muslim."
Regarding ruling elders: Offering prayer
Regarding Ruling Elders, a monthly resource provided by the Office of the General Assembly, is written this month by the Rev. Dr. Diana Nishita Cheifetz, a spiritual director serving lay leaders and clergy. She writes, "
He prayed for us. Harry came over and prayed for us. It was a small, extraordinary act of kindness, for which I am still grateful today. Not too many years ago, my husband and I were in the throes of uprooting from our apartment in San Francisco to a small rural town in the foothills of California because he had been called to a church as its transitional pastor. And it had all happened so quickly. After a thorough and thoughtful phone interview, my husband hoped that he would hear back in a week. It was more like an hour later. And he said yes." Cheifetz's complete column can be found at "Praying."
WJK releases 2 new books for Lent
Two new resources for Lent are now available from Westminster John Knox Press: "Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Prophets, and Rebels" by Heidi Haverkamp, and "The Journey to Jerusalem: A Story of Jesus' Last Days" by John Pritchard. The books provide a perspective for the season, allowing you to reflect and connect in a new way. The complete announcement from WJK Press can be found at "Books for Lent."
New 'Book of Common
Worship' arrives in 2018
Five years, 200 people, a bajillion emails and a whole lot of prayer. That's what it takes to make a new "Book of Common Worship." You might ask: Why do we need a new one? A changing church needs a worship book that reflects contemporary concerns and offers new liturgies, fresh language and a good deal of flexibility. The revised publication does just that, making room for new ways of being church while staying grounded in the best of Reformed and ecumenical practices. The complete story by Kimberly Bracken Long can be found at "Book of Common Worship."
coming up later this month in Baltimore
Registration for the 2018 NEXT Church national gathering remains open. Titled "The Desert in Bloom," the event takes place Feb. 26-28 in Baltimore. The gathering features church leaders, both pastors and lay people, sharing stories of their experiences of ministry, new ideas, and conversations about ministry in today's environment. Creative worship centers us around God's presence. Details and a link to registration can be found at "NEXT Church 2018."
White Privilege Conference
planned in April in Grand Rapids
"For the past 17 years the White Privilege Conference has examined challenging concepts of privilege and oppression," according to the Conference website, and the upcoming event is planned Wednesday through Saturday, April 4-7, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Conference, its website notes, "is open to everyone and invites diverse perspectives to provide a comprehensive look at issues of privilege including: race, gender, sexuality, class [and] disability." Complete details can be found at "White Privilege Conference."
The National Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen will conduct their triennial conference at the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina, April 23-26. Conference details and registration information can be found at "Triennial Conference."
Ecumenical Advocacy Days
to address 'A World Uprooted'
The website for next spring's Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in the nation's capital notes, "We live in a time of upheaval and uprootedness -- a world in which each year millions of people cross borders in search of more secure and sustainable lives, while white supremacist ideologies continue to impede the fight for justice and peace for all of God's people." EAD, the website notes, "is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, grounded in biblical witness and our shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Our goal, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness, is to strengthen our Christian voice and to mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues." EAD is planned Friday, April 20, through Monday, April 23. Details can be found at "Ecumenical Advocacy Days."
Great Plains Wee Kirk Conference
set this spring at Calvin Crest
The 2018 Great Plains Wee Kirk Conference is planned Monday through Wednesday, April 30-May 2, at Calvin Crest Camp, Conference and Retreat Center near Fremont, Nebraska. The conference includes worship, communion, workshops fellowship, relaxation and renewal. This year's plenary speaker is the Rev. Chris Walker, teacher, coach, pastor and principle writer for EvangelismCoach.org. Conference details are at "Great Plains Wee Kirk."
Presbyterians for Just Immigration
offers ways to engage
A January edition of Immigration Issues, a newsletter of Presbyterians for Just Immigration, notes "the landscape around immigration continues to shift and sway." The newsletter adds the "national political narrative is focused on criminality and numbers," and points out that it is important "that, as advocates and activists within and surrounding at-risk communities, we understand what's happening and how to encourage engagement and relationship-building." The newsletter goes on to offer opportunities to become participants in the effort to support just immigration. The newsletter is at "Just Immigration."
Partnerships help YAVs become next generation of faithful leaders
Presbyterians do mission in partnership. For the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, now celebrating its 25th recruitment season, partners are at the heart of the program's success. "YAVs are invited into communities already involved in amazing, necessary and holy works," said Blake Collins, the program's associate for recruitment and relationships. "Our church partners surround YAVs with hospitality, patience and much-needed grace on a daily basis." The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Kathy Melvin, along with links to application information, can be found at "YAV Partnerships."
Having a coach is important
to starting new worshiping community
Jeff Eddings, a coaching associate of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), says a coach is a valuable resource to those starting a new worshiping community. Writing in the recent New Church New Way newsletter, Eddings wrote, "Being
involved in starting a new worshiping community can be one of the most invigorating places to do ministry in the church, but it can also be one of the most daunting! Having been a pastor for 15 years at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, which I helped start, I am well aware of the dynamics of both of those feelings. That's why I believe coaching is such a valuable resource for the 1001 movement." The newsletter is at "New Church New Way."
Washington Island Forum
planned in June in Wisconsin
The 2018 Washington Island Forum, a 40-year tradition sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and The Christian Century magazine, features Anna Carter Florence, a former convocation speaker at the Synod of Lakes and Prairies' Synod School, as its primary speaker. Florence, who will speak on the theme, "Reading the Verbs: Finding the Script in the Scripture," is professor of preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. The Forum takes place Monday through Friday, June 25-29, on Washington Island, just north of Door County, Wisconsin. Details are at "Washington Island Forum."
Presbyterian Women plan
for national gathering
The church-wide gathering of Presbyterian Women is planned Aug. 2-5 in Louisville, Kentucky, with the theme "Arise, shine, your light has come!" Participants will engage in workshops, tours, forums and resource gathering, plenary sessions, worship and more. Initial plans for the gathering can be found at "National Gathering."
|News from the Board of Pensions
BOP's Employer News
offers important news, updates
The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) produces a newsletter for employers that highlights news and updates specifically for employers. The current edition urges employers to check their January invoice, notes updates to salary information, and seeks updates to contact information. The complete issue is at "Employer News."
|News around the PC(USA) and more
Religious leaders hail, hammer
State of the Union speech
Reaction to President Trump's first State of the Union was fast and furious from opponents and supporters of his definition of immigration reform and his approach to religious liberty. In his 80-minute speech, the president declared Jan. 30 that "Americans are dreamers too" and said, "The motto is, 'In God we trust.'" He opened describing "the beauty of America's soul, and the steel in America's spine" and told tearful family members of victims of MS-13 gang members, "Everyone in this chamber is praying for you." The complete story from the Religion News Service can be found at "Reaction to Speech."
Sexual harassment: Creating
a place for truth-telling
When the news about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual harassment became public, women flooded social media with the hashtag #MeToo. In solidarity with women who were harmed by Weinstein, women shared their personal stories of being emotionally and physically demeaned by men. I searched my Facebook and Twitter feeds to see how many of my female pastor friends would share their stories. The stories included a colleague who was forced out of her call after telling the session about repeated sexual harassment by a beloved staff member; colleagues in my female pastor support group who frequently talked about men in their congregations who referred to them as "honey"; and a colleague who was kissed on the lips by a male pastor in a room full of pastoral colleagues. The complete story by Susan Maxwell Rothenberg can be found at "Creating a Place."
Women of Faith awards
Nominations are being sought for the 2018 Women of Faith Awards sponsored by Racial Ethnic & Women's Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The 2018 theme is Clergywomen who Challenge Racism and Injustice. "This year's award will recognize clergywomen who are 'woke' and who challenge systemic racism and oppression," said the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of racial ethnic and women's ministries. "Many of us are blessed to know clergywomen who have been advocates for racial and intercultural justice, with a respectful awareness and appreciation for each other's different races, ethnicities, cultures and languages." The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Gail Strange can be found at "Women of Faith."
A-C-Swap is the way to say ACSWP,
here's an update on its work
ACSWP, nearly an acronym for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, is an important part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In the January edition of the Presbyterian Justice & Peace newsletter, Christian Iosso, coordinator of the committee, noted, "This e-newsletter contains briefs on work being done" by the ACSWP, and added, "A, C, Swap is the easiest way to say it." Iosso provides an outline of the committee's work in his column, which can be found at "The Work of ACSWP."
Presbyterian writer lists
top-10 2017 films as visual parables
Presbyterian News Service is continuing the tradition begun about 15 years ago in Presbyterians Today magazine of selecting the year's top-10 films. The list is different from those appearing in secular journals because the primary criteria are spiritual and moral/ethical values, not artistic ones. Are issues of ethics and social conflict raised and dealt with realistically? Are the characters well-rounded ones who struggle with their decisions? Are violence and sex seen as complex matters, rather than depicted in black and white terms? Does a film show the consequences of violence and sometimes even suggest an alternative? The complete story by Edward McNulty can be found at "Top-10 Films."
Newsletter focuses on new
immigrant worshiping communities
The February issue of Racial Ethnic & Women's Ministries e-newsletter focuses on the growing new immigrant new worshiping communities and congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rhashell Hunter, director of the Office of Racial Ethnic and Women's Ministries for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, writes, "Presbyterians from Korea, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are worshiping, engaging in mission, proclaiming the Good News and teaching the Reformed faith in many languages and through various cultural expressions." Hunter's complete column, and additional information and resources, can be found at "Growing Immigrant Worshiping Communities."
Writers Guild seeks nominations
for its Best First Book award
The Presbyterian Writers Guild is accepting nominations for its 2018 Best First Book Award, honoring the best first book by a Presbyterian author published during the calendar years of 2016-2017. The award is given biennially and will be presented June 21 during the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis, Missouri. Deadline for submissions is March 15. The complete announcement from the Presbyterian Writers Guild is at "First Book."
All Agency Review Committee
approves recommendations to GA
Following a six-hour closed session Jan. 23, the All Agency Review Committee announced that it had approved a series of recommendations to the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding the PC(USA), A Corporation, the corporate entity for the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). That recommendation asks the General Assembly to create a nine-person board for the A Corporation, with one representative from each of the PC(USA)'s six agencies, plus three at-large members. The A Corporation board currently mirrors that of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board. The complete story by The Presbyterian Outlook's Leslie Scanlon can be found at "Review Committee."
2020 Vision Team affirms
guiding statement, preamble
The 2020 Vision Team of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) concluded its final face-to-face meeting in Dallas last week after spending three days discussing the format and contents of the draft report it will submit to the 223rd General Assembly this summer in St. Louis. The group's task, as defined by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC(USA), is to "develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation with all deliberate speed. The process of developing such a guiding statement will help us to name and claim our denominational identity as we seek to follow the Spirit into the future." The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Gregg Brekke can be found at "2020 Vision Team."
Presbyterians plan 260-mile
walk to General Assembly
A group of Presbyterians will be making their way to the 223rd General Assembly this summer by foot. Organized by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Fossil Free PC(USA), participants from around the country will walk 260 miles from Louisville, the site of the offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to St. Louis, the site of this year's Assembly. In a joint press release, the participants say they are making the walk this June to "stand against investing in the fossil fuel industry." The complete Presbyterian News Service story by Rick Jones can be found at "Taking a Walk."
|Just one more
Dad humor ...
Something happens so some of us when we have children. We start telling "dad jokes." And the kids see it coming. Your editor's kids didn't roll their eyes; they stared, not at your editor, but at an empty place far, far away. And today there's Twitter, and from time to time your editor runs across a dad joke there. This week your editor found a collection of tweets -- collected by Reader's Digest, of course. Here's the magazine's collection: "Dad Joke Tweets."