Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
August 27, 2020
Dear Friends of Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery,

Welcome to this week's edition of our e-letter, Presbytery Matters. Our goal is to highlight things going on throughout the Church: within our Presbytery, in our congregations, as well as in the Synod of the Northeast and across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We hope that these are things that will be helpful, informative, challenging, encouraging and supportive. In other words, we hope that these things will matter. Your input is valued, and your comments are always welcomed.
Mission Stories

We want to hear about the mission stories from our Presbytery's worshiping communities.     What mission work are you involved in? How are your members working in the community? What story would you like to share with others in the Presbytery?
Send any mission stories from your congregation that you would like to share to: 
Deadline is 12 p.m. on Wednesdays for the current week's edition of
Presbytery Matters.
We want to share your stories, missions, activities and more. Also, make sure to like our Facebook page by clicking the "Like us on Facebook" tab at the top of this letter.

Joys and Concerns around the Presbytery
        In our prayers together this week... 
  • Please keep Robert Chambers' loved ones in your prayers. Bob died on August 11, 2020 in State College, PA. Bob was an elder, treasurer, business manager and all around member of the First Presbyterian Church in Mexico. He also served on the Korean Team of the Presbytery. He gave a presentation at one Presbytery Meeting of his experience. Bob retired as a professor at ESF in Syracuse. He was 90 years old.
  • Please pray for all those who are dealing with natural disasters, including those who are in the path of hurricanes.
  • Please pray for parents, students, teachers and school staff as they prepare for this unprecedented back-to-school.
  • Pray for our pastors and leadership teams as they make decisions about services as the cooler months approach.
  • Pray for all those battling addiction and their families that love them.
  • Pray for all those fighting for justice and equality.
  • Pray for our country as we approach the 2020 election.
  • Please pray for James Russell, a member of Westminster Syracuse. He is battling esophagus cancer.
  • Pray for all the doctors, nurses and medical staff on the front lines fighting to save COVID-19 patients.
  • Please pray for all those who are sick with COVID-19 and all those who have lost loved ones.
  • Pray for our leaders and officials as they continue to make difficult decisions regarding social distancing and COVID-19.
In the cycle of prayer our Presbytery, please pray for these congregations, faith communities,and individuals: Columbian, LaFayette; First, Liverpool; First, Marcellus; First, Mexico; Morrisville Community Church
If you'd like to share a particular joy or concern with the Presbytery, please contact:

Photo of the Week
Hannibal Community Church recently welcomed John James, former lead
singer of the Newsboys.

To have your photo considered for "Photo of the Week" post it to your church's Facebook page and tag the Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse's Facebook page.
Resource Presbyter   
Hello, Cayuga-Syracuse!
Communal distraction is a thing.
Exhibit A? Tiger King.
Distraction is a coping mechanism. It's generally passive -- and is a focus on something other than what is a primary concern. As someone who has had the occasional panic attack, I can attest that it can be a helpful tool. My hunch is that having a communal distraction or two these last five-and-a-half months has not been a bad thing, although Tiger King, bread-baking and closet reorganizing are sooo "early pandemic". These things (and those that follow) distract us from a problem that we have no control over.
Distraction (communal and individual) becomes a problem when keeps our attention from confronting an issue where we have agency.
I know a Session that had debated what color to paint the women's bathroom for months. They conducted a survey and then decided to bounce the decision to the women's group (seeing as they would be the primary users). When the women's group had selected a color (yet another survey as well as some political maneuvering) their decision came back to the Session which then began the heated debate about the appropriate finish (eggshell in a bathroom?!). The selection of the contractor went to the Buildings and Grounds committee whose chair was not at the subsequent meeting of the Session and therefore couldn't report their decision. By the time she was able to connect with the Session for final approval almost a year had passed since the discussion had started.
The bathroom was painted in a day.
Imagine what might have been done with the time and energy that was spent on that decision?
Imagine what conversations and confrontations they were able to avoid?
Yes. Communal distraction is a thing.
Exhibit B? Having the conversation about when to reopen the building every month.
So much energy has been sucked into this technical discussion by so many of our good folks that it makes me wonder what conversations we might be having instead. Don't get me wrong, this is critical work for the safety of the communities we serve... but if this conversation dominates the meeting every month it might signal that it's a distraction (if you're not repeating this conversation, good for you! What are you talking about that really doesn't need that much attention?)
If your Session made the decision that you'd not revisit opening the building until January 2021, what might you do with the time and energy to make the next few months a time of creative witness to the Gospel? Or what if the timing of reopening were connected to a specific indicator ( is a great resource for this), as well as a potential trigger for closing the doors? How can you make the opening/closing not only easy on your leadership but also free up the space to ask the questions you've been dodging -- like "what have we learned about our congregation during this pandemic" and "what is our part in systemic racism?" and "were we spiritually prepared to be isolated, and if not, how might we work on that?".
What are we avoiding that we have the power to confront?
Seek first the Kin-dom of God, my friends.
Blessings -


There's a lot to think about during this season, including how to train and support the folks in congregational leadership. Need help? Take this short survey, and let Presbytery leadership know what we can do to help!

Our Resource Presbyter is curating resources regarding anti-racism.  If you have resources that have been helpful in your context, please let her know so she might share them with others!  You can find the "page in process" here:

We are still collecting stories and photos of Vanderkamp for the Celebrating Vanderkamp webpage:

If you have a something you'd like to share, please contact Karen.  

Resource Presbyter's Virtual Gatherings 
Our Resource Presbyter, the Rev. Karen Chamis, will be holding virtual office hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays.
Karen will be available for drop-in conversations on Zoom. Come say hello, share concerns or learn a bit on how to use this important tool.  
 Join Zoom Meeting:  
Password: 216956  
Coffee with Clergy  
Pastoral leadership is invited to a Thursday morning Virtual Coffee for connection, support and fellowship.  
The Zoom meeting will start at 10 a.m.   

Join Zoom Meeting: 
Password: 798822
On Monday nights you are invited to a discussion revolving around a series entitled: "Covenantal Restoration: A 12 session film series on Faith and Race. The films include James Forbes, Bryan Stevenson, Jim Wallis and Simone Campbell, etc. Join in at any time!
We will meet Monday nights at 7:30 p.m.  
Nominating Committee   
From the Nominating Committee: 
Cayuga-Syracuse is entitled to send two minister members and two elders to serve as Commissioners to the Synod Assembly October 23-24, 2020. We still have a vacancy for a second minister member. If you are a minister member of presbytery willing to serve in this capacity, please contact the Rev. Tom Oak (, 316-641-5454) or Linda Russell (, 315-730-6930) by August 20 for more information or with your offer to serve.
Thank you,
The Nominating Committee
Presbyterian Week of Action
The Presbyterian Week of Action, which continues until August 30, is an endeavor to provide a public witness that facilitates education, viability and action that reinforce our PC(USA) statements and policy that support eradicating racism and acknowledge that God loves all Black lives.   
The Presbyterian Church (USA) affirms that all Black Lives Matter.  The national office of the PC(USA) invites its congregations to participate in a Week of Action.   
The daily schedule of events and digital toolkit can be found here:
Dates to Remember
November 14    Presbytery Stated Meeting, Westminster-Auburn
Around the Presbytery
Marcellus First Presbyterian Church is seeking a Full Charge Bookkeeper for a contract position, 3 to 5 hours a week. Must be proficient in QB and MS Office with good communication skills.  
Email resume or questions to Sue March, treasurer, at
REQUEST: Presbyterian Women is asking our churches to send at least one name/contact person (preferably a woman) to send information to about Presbyterian Women. Please send name and email address/contact info to Susan Silliman Smith at  
Have a question for our Bookkeeper?  Paula Lamberson is generally available on Mondays, and can be reached via email at:
Around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Town Hall forum sees anti-racism progress in the PC(USA) but plenty of work remaining
More than 200 people take in the webinar, part of the Presbyterian Week of Action

By Mike Ferguson
Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE - More than 200 people listened in Tuesday while some of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s deepest thinkers and most effective practitioners of anti-racism work shared their hearts and their experiences during a 90-minute Town Hall, part of the Presbyterian Week of Action. View the event here.

Christian Brooks, representative for domestic issues at the PC(USA)'s Office of Public Witness, moderated the panel, which included:
"Give us attentive hearts and minds," Anderson prayed before Brooks opened the discussion. "Let us receive what you have to say to us and let us receive it in joy. Propel us to do your will."


Beyond buildings, borders and geography
Bruce Reyes-Chow encourages pastors to build a theological understanding of the future church

By Paul Seebeck
Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - During a fast-paced two-hour Zoom conversation this week, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow led more than 100 participants in a discussion on "The Scattered Church: Pastoring in a Time of Pandemic."

Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008), Reyes-Chow currently pastors First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, California.  He divided his presentation into three sessions, moving those gathered from:
  • Enduring to Embracing: This COVID-19 Pastoral Leadership Journey.
  • Congregational Chaos to Communal Life: Best Practices for Zoom Life.
  • "Here" Church to Hybrid Church: What we Might Become.
During session one, Reyes-Chow said pastoral leaders are being called in new ways to go into a space to teach and nurture, build and comfort, and be with the body of Christ in ways they never imagined - all while feeling the need to be equipped themselves.  Reyes-Chow said most pastors did really well going into "first responder pastor mode," which he described as "I got this."  Then came the "Dear God" stage, with many pastors over-functioning and being overwhelmed, and some of them panicking.

5811 Heritage Landing Dr., 2nd Floor
East Syracuse, NY  13057
(315) 632-5698
"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them
bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
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