Newsletter - May 2020
Ecclesiastical Ruminations
By Rev. George Wortham, Interim General Presbyter and Stated Clerk

There has always been a tension found within our theology and our church polity. This is the tension between freedom and order. Specifically, freedom has to do with the freedom of God and our freedom to respond to God. 
This means that in our theology and polity we seek to be guided by God. This is a discipline of listening, prayer, and response. This is a primary task for councils of the church. It is the responsibility of Sessions and Presbyteries (and Synods and GA) to listen to the movement of the Spirit and follow the leading of God.
On the other hand, we also understand the necessity of order. Order is what we do and what we create. And it is necessary for two reasons. First, order sets boundaries to our self-deception and sin. Secondly, order gives organization and focus to our work of mission as the church of Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, order is necessary. But because order is fundamentally our creation, it is also situated in a specific culture and set of social relationships. It is for this reason that the order of the church is always subject to continual reforming (Reformed and always reforming).
I have had the privilege to experience the Presbyterian order of the church in Scotland, Chile, Guatemala, Peru, and Mexico. And in all these churches the order is specific to the reality of culture and society.
When I was first approached concerning this position of interim general presbyter and stated clerk, the challenge I was made aware of was the changes in culture and society that has affected our Presbytery. Then the COVID-19 crisis turned our world upside down.
This is where the tension in our theology and polity is present. Our order was not created to deal with the changes we now face. From the General Assembly to the local church Session, we are making decisions that are beyond the Book of Order, Robert’s Rules of Order or any bylaws or manuals of operation. Order will catch up in time. But in the meantime it is important for us to reaffirm that God’s presence and guidance is still with us. God is still free and sovereign over our lives and world.
So what do we do? To rework a quote from Augustine: “Love, and do what you need to do.” If you love the Lord and love his church and seek the well being of the church, all will be well. Thanks be to God.
New Interim General Presbyter, Stated Clerk and new Administrative Assistant, and Associate Clerk
On May 1, the Rev. Dr. George Wortham, replaced Rev. Joe Hill and Rev. Dan Hignight as interim general presbyter and stated clerk. Nancy Bergeron also started her work as administrative assistant and associate clerk. 

George has been a member of Pines Presbytery since 1981 and served as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jonesville, La., The Presbyterian Church in Crossett, Ark., and Highland Presbyterian Church in West Monroe, La. He retired Dec. 31, 2019 as pastor of New Iona Presbyterian Church in West Monroe.

Nancy is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Ruston, an elder and currently clerk of Session. She is beginning to wind down a more than 40-year career in the newspaper and communications business.

We look forward to the days ahead and the leadership they will provide in these changing times. At this point, most of their work is done by electronic and other forms of social media. But feel free to contact them through the Presbytery office by phone or email. Email George at and Nancy at .
Amazing News!
What is most amazing at this time is how churches have stepped up to reach out in this time of social distancing and sheltering in home. So many churches are embracing various forms of electronic communication for worship, Bible studies, church school and small group meetings.
And ministry has not stopped! Churches are providing food for those who are sheltering in home or have lost their jobs. A crisis many times reveals where our hearts are. Hopefully, in the days ahead we can share these stories with one another in this newsletter.
To help us do that, please email a few paragraphs about how your church is meeting the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic to . Please include your contact information or the contact information of whoever may be in charge of a particular project in case we have questions or need more information.
Saying ‘Goodbye’ in the time of COVID-19
Perhaps one of the most painful realities of this time of COVID-19 is the inability to say goodbye to loved ones as we would like. We lose loved ones to death in hospitals and nursing homes and we are not able to sit by their bed or hold their hand. And, under the current social distancing regulations, we are limited in how many people can attend the rituals of burial. Many times our most intimate moments are reduced to an image on a cell phone or laptop. And in this some of our humanity is lost. 
This loss also applies to the rituals that accompany the major changes in our lives. I am thinking specifically of Joe Hill, our recently retired general presbyter, and Dan Hignight, our recently retired stated clerk. Both Joe and Dan are leaving service to this Presbytery after decades of faithful service. And we have been frustrated in all our attempts to organize a celebration of service. So what can we do? Perhaps at some future date we can celebrate their service by gathering together.
The problem is that rituals have a certain timing. And we do not know how long this social distancing will last. So what can we do that is spiritually and emotionally appropriate in this moment? I would like to suggest that Sessions and pastors send a card or note to Joe and Dan and let them know how grateful we are for their service to us. Let them know that we pray for God’s blessing upon them in the days ahead.

Joe Hill
2100 Winchester Dr.
Ruston, LA 71270

Dan Hignight
611 S. Main St.
Hope, AR 71802
News and Notes
Presbytery work in this time of crisis
The Presbytery Leadership Council has stepped up to provide leadership during this time of crisis. They have been meeting on a weekly basis by Zoom to try to manage the challenges that we are facing. The Congregational and Pastoral Care Committee has also been meeting to provide guidance and care for our congregations and pastors. Please keep these folks in your prayers.
Need to install internet connection and WiFi or upgrade your current system?
In this time when diversity of means of communication is a necessity rather than just an option, the Presbytery can help you! There are funds available for upgrades or a new system and service for your congregation. Contact Nancy Bergeron at the Presbytery office by email at for more information.

Want a Zoom account? Synod can help
Synod has offered to pay for one year of subscription for the “Zoom” virtual platform. If your church is interested, please contact Nancy Bergeron at the Presbytery office by email at
Financial help available 
If your congregation needs extra financial help in this time of crisis, please contact Nancy Bergeron at the Presbytery office by email at . There is money available from the Presbytery and from Presbyterian Disaster Relief. There is also some dues relief from the Board of Pensions.
June Presbytery meeting postponed
Because of the corona virus, the Presbytery Leadership Council has decided to postpone Presbytery until the next stated meeting in October. The First Presbyterian Church of Magnolia will be the host for this meeting of Presbytery.
2020 General Assembly to be virtual
  Yes, there will be a General Assembly this year. But it will a virtual meeting and will be much shorter in length. Overtures and reports from special committees will be forwarded to the next General Assembly. Our commissioners are: Rev. Jim Freeman and Donna Rose. Please keep them and the GA in your prayers.
Summer camp? Yep, it’s in the box
Ferncliff is offering “camp in a box” for those children who cannot attend camp this summer. The First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport is purchasing a quantity of these boxes and is offering to share them with other churches in the Presbytery. If you are interested in a “camp in a box”, please contact the Rev. Chris Currie at .