March 9, 2017
Northeast Georgia Presbytery Newsletter
Quick Links
186 Ben Burton Circle
Suite 100
Bogart, GA 30622
In This Issue
A Word From Hilary
Important Information from Northeast Georgia Presbytery
Prayer Concerns and Celebrations
Save the Date

Report of the General Presbyter Rev. Hilary N. Shuford to Northeast Georgia Presbytery at it's Winter Stated Meeting, February 25, 2017 
Today has been a full day! I have been blessed to be here with you and to have been installed into the position of General Presbyter. Thank you for your continuing presence throughout the day. I want to make a brief report in a general way about the State of the Union in Northeast Georgia Presbytery.

The Lexington AC is waiting on various interest groups in Lexington to form a 501c3 corporation to which it can transfer title to the historic church building and cemetery, their having closed the congregation a couple of years ago.
Since the end of 2015 and all the way through January 2017, our presbytery meetings were filled with reports of ACs. What I see before us at the beginning of 2017 is a wide-open playing field. The Coordinating Team, as you heard, is completing some administrative cleaning. I think of the woman in Luke 15 who is searching for a lost coin. She's sweeping up the dust and straightening up around the house, cleaning out the cobwebs, perhaps at times she is moving furniture in her search for the thing that is of most value. Friends, I believe the time of celebration is at hand! The CT has identified, and you have approved, two main areas to organize our ministries in connecting congregations and supporting clergy in addition to those ecclesiastical responsibilities of presbyteries under our Book of Order.
I appreciated your serious conversation on money matters earlier this afternoon. Kudos again go to the Bills and Overtures Committee.
I have several other praises that I want to share with you. First are the groups of clergy members who are already gathering regularly for mutual support and encouragement. I have been meeting with the interim group which meets monthly for conversation, prayer and a meal. I am aware of several other groups who are meeting monthly and bi-weekly.
Second, I want to tell you about the World Mission Conference at FPC Gainesville earlier this month. The members and friends of Gainesville First gathered to hear inspirational stories and to raise funds for international ministries and missions which their own members are involved in. Former GA Moderator Fahed Abu-Abel was the keynote speaker this year, and they met their goal of $100,000, supporting 25 projects with 150 folks in attendance. I am hopeful that the 2018 conference will be open for everyone from Northeast Georgia Presbytery to attend and see how one of our very active and growing congregations uses its gifts to bring God's message to the world. I'm also hoping that my friend and colleague from West Texas, the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, who is the incoming Director of Worldwide Ministries at the PCUSA denomination headquarters in Louisville, might be the keynote speaker. And this is just one of many ministries in our local churches. Please share your stories.
Another "shout-out" to Mielan Barnes, daughter of the Rev. Cheryl Barnes, who will be living in Peru for two years to work with missions.  
Finally, another real sign of health is the 22 folks, with several more going to Atlanta next month, who participated in the LMPC Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders which was held at OPC last week. People from Greater Augusta, South Central, Greater Athens, North Central and the Mountain Area formed a real sense of community and we are excited for the future. Right after Easter, we will begin planning how best to offer these skills across the Presbytery and in all our local communities. How we handle disagreements, whether interpersonal or multi-party or within an entire congregation is key to healthy growing in our faith and discipleship in our communities.
It is my hope which is shared by many who took the Mediation training that there will be a difference from the former CHAT (Congregational Health Action Team) and the Reconciliation Team before CHAT in that there will not be a reporting element through the Committee on Ministry; rather, those who are trained will be available to help the parties to a dispute or conflict reach their own agreement and find their own way forward in their relationships. It will not be a team "sent from" Presbytery, but it will be a group of equipped church leaders from which anyone may request assistance. Stay tuned, and join me in looking forward to a "commercial" from the group at the May meeting.
In the meantime, ���� , and until we see each other again, be joyful my friends. Peace!


Report regarding Central Presbyterian litigation given at the February 25, 2017 Stated Meeting of Presbytery. 
Briefly, the former pastors and Session at Central filed a suit in secular court as an ECO church the day before Northeast Georgia Presbytery declared schism and awarded the building to the faithful, true church, pursuant to G-4 in our Book of Order. A superior court judge in the Clarke County district, without notice or opportunity for us to be heard, gave temporary possession of the Central property to those who departed to ECO based solely on their allegations. About 2 weeks later, on January 26, there was a hearing and the judge did not rule completely in our favor in that he allowed ECO temporary possession of the church property during the litigation. The judge also provided protection to us, which protective measures include: that ECO pay the utilities and mortgage, maintain insurance, keep the property and building in good repair and maintenance and prevent waste, prohibiting selling, conveying, transferring or encumbering the property, or making any substantial modification or alteration other than normal upkeep and repair.
Our attorneys have filed an answer and counterclaims. The time for developing and setting forth the full facts of the case is before us now. After this time period, called "discovery" which will go on for about 6 months, our attorneys will begin preparing for trial. Let's take it a step at a time; we'll journey through this by stages, trusting God who is with us and will protect us.
I want the Presbytery to know that when decisions regarding litigation are presented to me as the General Presbyter by our attorneys, I never act without consulting others, many others. First I talk with Andy Cooke, Chair of the Presbytery's Coordinating Team. Previously I consulted with Dr. Ed Boland our Moderator when he served as CT chair. Concurrently I consult with Bob Prim, the AC Moderator, and with retired attorney and former litigator, Andrew Marshall who also serves on the AC. And I consult with Becky Burton, the pastor and Moderator for Central. By the way the new AC, if elected, will act as the Session until the congregation elects a Nominations committee and proceeds to elect, train, examine and ordain/install new elders. Looking toward the immediate future, when decisions regarding litigation need to be made, be assured that decisions will be made in consultation with Andy Cooke, Bob Prim and Andrew Marshall, Becky Burton, Tara Bulger, and the other members of the new AC acting as the Session, and myself. Further reports will be made periodically. Be assured we will consult far and wide with all stakeholders as we go forward, so that we are all in accord and keep a full perspective before us as we make necessary decisions.
Remember too that the reason the Recommendation for the new AC was held in abeyance at the January 10 called meeting was because of the broad language in the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). That is no longer a concern as the Interlocutory Order has nothing to say about our proceedings to take appropriate actions to run our ecclesiastical matters. And, as has always been the case, the AC acting as the Session will not take any action that would violate any order of a court.     
Central Presbyterian Church has 107 years of continuous witness as a viable member of our Presbytery and the PCUSA, since it was organized by our predecessor Athens Presbytery. Central continues operating and existing under the Presbyterian Church USA Constitution, which expresses and exercises our religious beliefs, and dates back through Scotland to Protestant Reformer John Calvin. Central Presbyterian continues to worship and work under the good leadership of the Rev. Dr. Becky Burton.
I want to tell you what I shared with the Committee on Ministry earlier this month. I humbly ask all of you to step up, to increase your contacts with one another and your sister congregations. I know that Moderator Ed Boland will be making visits. If you need me on a given Sunday, I will be there, like times of pastoral transitions, ordination & installations, congregational anniversaries or when you need pastoral care; but help me to spend as many Sundays as I can with Central. I would do the same for you if your congregation found itself ousted from your building, your place of worship, fellowship, and ministry. Also for a while I will be leading Sunday school with the Central congregation. Together they are re-focusing their energy and re-shaping their relationships with God and one another, building spiritual energy for re-settling when the time comes, and all other endeavors which are worthy of consideration in service to God and in love for one another.
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
A question that is asked of me is, "Is Central Presbyterian (ie. the congregation) viable? The short answer is yes. A more considerate response is, "They are a faithful congregation committed to Jesus Christ and the PCUSA."
So, what does a "viable congregation" look like? Looking at the New Testament marks of the church (worship, service, nurture/discipleship, and evangelism/outreach) consider the following:
1. Since January 15, 2017 the congregation of 30-50 gather each Sunday to worship (in the UGA Presbyterian Student Center). Following the first Sunday of worship, a choir was re-formed and leads worship in song each week. At the end of February, a "new" bell choir rang joyfully. These thoughtful folks, under the direction of Brenda Poss and David Boardman, are enthusiastic saints. Liturgists from the congregation serve each Sunday along with our friend Dr. Joseph Berry. In gratitude to God, the congregation is giving - both financially and in service.
2. Fellowship and nurture are ongoing. One of the most amazing things I have learned about this congregation is that they have stayed connected through these many months through intentional gatherings, calls, and visits. Bible study, a study of spiritual practices, led by General Presbyter Hilary Shuford, is held each Sunday with an attendance of more than 10.
3. Service to the community began in February in earnest by providing Sunday dinner to UGA students. 12 Central saints came to serve and visit with students, a significant number according to reliable sources. One observer commented, "It was like a wonderful church supper."
4. Outreach to those who indicated their commitment to Central, PCUSA, is ongoing with "new" and returning members and friends attending worship. In addition, leaders are emerging and they are eager to move forward. Lastly, with the arrival of one of the Waddel Fellows, the redevelopment of youth ministry will be underway over the next few weeks.
As I said at the recent presbytery meeting, these folks understand what it means to be the church and live into this holy call with open hearts. Their commitment to be the church is deep in their bones and these bones live.
A Good Resource for Churches
Techsoup provides technology assistance services to nonprofit organizations in partnerships with companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco and Symantec at deeply discounted or donated rates. Get the latest software and hardware for your church at a price that fits your budget. Register with Techsoup via this link to begin saving now.

This month, the Board of Pensions launches its Benefits Connections series. Benefits Connections is a one-day gathering designed for those who make benefits decisions, such as business administrators, clerks of session, and members of Committees on Ministry. The day will cover the theological values that shape the Benefits Plan and provide time for questions and answers with Board leadership and staff. The gathering for our area is scheduled for April 25 at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Read more on
Click here for information on The Big Tent 2017, to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, July 6-8 at Washington State University Campus.  This year the focus is on Race, Reconciliation and Reformation. 

consoling-mom.jpg Attached please see a flyer for a free workshop for the Training on Traumatic Grief and Loss related to Children and Adolescents.  The event will be held on March 23 at the Athens Clarke County Library in Athens.  Please see the flyer for more information and for instructions on how to register.

David Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, will be speaking at the University of Georgia Chapel on March 13 at 7pm on "Mobilizing the Moral Constructive Power of Faith."  He will address the way that religions can work together for the greater good of their community.  This speech is open to the public. Please see flyer attached .
Do you know any college students in the Athens area who are interested in becoming leaders in the church? Would your congregation like to host a college student from our students_portrait.jpg program in the coming year? The Presbyterian Student Center at UGA is accepting Waddel Fellowship applications now through April 15 for the 2017-18 academic year. More information can be found at and a flyer can be found here.
Weekend Mission Youth Event, to be held at Reid Memorial Church and Augusta Local Missions, March 17-19, 2017.  Click here for more information.
First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville will host the 30th Annual Gathering of Northeast Georgia Presbyterian Women on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Please click here for information, schedule and registration.

First Presbyterian Church in Athens would like to extend an invitation to all churches in Northeast Georgia Presbytery to attend their upcoming Core Godly Play Training, which is scheduled for June 8, 9, and 10 at 6:00 p.m. Click here for more information. 
Prayer Concerns and Celebrations

Congratulations go to Erin and Taylor Rigot on the birth of their daughter Emerson Keates on March 9th.  Keates is the granddaughter of Presbytery Moderator, Ed Boland and his wife Mandy, and Bill and Jane Rigot, from Reid Memorial Church in Augusta.

Please pray for Rev. Andy Chambers, Pastor of First Church, Cleveland, as he will be going to Nicaragua on March 17 for a week to work with Rivers of the World.

Remember Rev. Margaret Davis and her husband Ben as they anticipate the birth of their first child in April.

The Rev. Dr. David Paul Keister, Sr.  passed away on Friday, March 3, 2017. He currently served the Toccoa Presbyterian Church. David had served on committees and commissions at the presbytery level. He was an accomplished pianist, playing at several presbytery meetings.  He also was a member of the Toccoa Falls Community Choir.    A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 25, 2:00 P.M., at the Toccoa Presbyterian Church. The family will receive friends on that Saturday at the Toccoa Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall from 12 Noon until the service time. Please remember his wife, Mona, and their family and friends at this very difficult time.   
hands clasped
We Want to Hear from You!  
Please share your prayer concerns and celebrations by calling the presbytery office at 706-353-2533 or email Linda Turner

Save the Date

Examinations Action Team Meeting, presbytery office, 10:00 a.m., March 10
Committee on Ministry Team Meeting, Covenant Church, Athens, 10:00 a.m. March 16
Association of Smaller Congregations, Epworth-by-the-Sea ,  March 17-19
Weekend Mission Youth Event, Reid Memorial Church and Augusta Local Missions, March 17-19
PW Gathering , First Church, Gainesville, March 18
Nominating Committee Meeting, presbytery office, 11:00 a.m., April 4
Good Friday, Presbytery Office Closed, April 14
Preparation for Ministry Team Meeting, place to be announced, April 18
Leadership Development Ministry Team Meeting, Covenant Church, Athens, 11:30 p.m. , April 19
Committee on Ministry Team Meeting, Covenant Church, Athens, 10:00 a.m., April 20
Coordinating Team Meeting, Friendship Church, 1:00 p.m., April 25

We believe Almighty God is calling Northeast Georgia Presbytery to become a Christ centered, inclusive community of faithful and healthy congregations.
Join Our Mailing List!