Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year Reflections

Happy New Year!

As I visit with my extended family in Pennsylvania, I am mindful of the blessings that come from family and long standing traditions. As I have followed God's call to ministry in Brazil, congregations in Pennsylvania, New York, and now in Lake Michigan Presbytery, these regular visits have provided a grounded center for me and my family. No matter where we may be living at the time, our home base in Paradise, Pennsylvania has been the one constant in our lives. Whether we agree on the issues of the day or not, and in spite of the hair style of the year, here we are taken in, gifts, cookies and laughs are shared.

As I reflect on the past and coming year, I am mindful of the sea of change we are navigating in Lake Michigan Presbytery. New Leadership: Several leaders, who have served Lake Michigan well, are concluding their service as moderators/chairperson/conveners: Linda Knieriemen and Seth Weeldreyer (past moderators), Rick Raum (COM), Jeff Carlson and Genie Cooper (COM Vice Moderators), Doug Nettleton (COM Pastoral Care Sub Com. and Board of Pension Liaison), Nancy Toth (COM Credentials Sub Com.), Mark Jennings (CPM), Tedd Oyler (Budget & Finance/Trustees, Ron Waybrant (Greenwood Agency), Christine Barnes (Higher Education Agency), Janet Van Lear (Administration Ministry Team), Fred Graham (Nominating Committee), Karen Haak (Shepherding Ministry Team). I am so grateful for their leadership these past years, and pray God's blessing on the new leaders who will fill their roles: John Cox (moderator), Jeff O'Neill (vice moderator), Margie Osborne (COM), Helen Collins (CPM), Helen Havlik (Trustees), Bill Sorensen (Administration MT), Andy Thorburn (Nominating), and Steve Magennis (Greenwood Agency). Presbytery Staff: I thank God for the stability of our Presbytery staff as we support these new leaders this year. Here too, we open the to door for change. The staff is upgrading computer operating systems, and to a new copier. A staff design task force is looking at how best to support the ministry and mission of the presbytery with staff as we look to the future. This task force will report to the Leadership Team in April in preparation for budgeting for 2013. Congregations: North and Westminster congregations in Lansing plan for merger in 2012, and the congregation in McBain moves toward closing in July. Congregational Leaders: Our congregations in Stockbridge, Dimondale, Marshall, West Lake in Battle Creek, Coldwater, Schoolcraft, and Decatur are between pastors. Westminster in Grand Rapids and Holland, First have just said good bye to associate pastors and are discerning their staffing patterns. The Albion and Pine Island congregations will say good-bye to their pastors in March and June. Denominational Studies: the 219th General Assembly called us to a study of marriage, and appointed a Commission on Middle Councils, which will report to the 220th General Assembly in July in Pittsburgh. Some conservative oriented Presbyterians will gather in January to organize a new Reformed body. Some progressive Presbyterians will likewise be meeting in February to explore the shape of the "Next Church."

Like it or not, change is in the wind for 2012! So, if like me, you are feeling more than a little bit disoriented and lost by this sea of change, I recommend regular visits home to Scripture, to the Foundation section of our Book of Order, to the Book of Confessions, and to Presbytery meeting/gatherings. May your visits there provide you identity and purpose orientation, a grounded center, and a grace filled, undeserved welcome home, where they have to take you in, and love you no matter what life has thrown at you, or the status of your hair.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Light of the World

I love the lights that brighten our homes and communities this time of year. It's so dark this time of year. In spite of the few homeowners who go a little over board for my taste, the lights brighten my spirit! Years ago, as a seminary student, I served a church nearby Colonial Williamsburg. Eileen and I attended the Great Illumination there that December. It is the rare event that attracts the locals. People go and walk the streets. Church choirs sing carols at street corners. However, to our surprise, the only lights were single candles lit in each window. It was so dark you couldn't see the face of the person next to you, yet the lights in the windows oriented us to the direction of the street.

This advent season we await and at Christmas celebrate God's coming to us in Jesus, the light of the world! He brightens our lives, and guides our way. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus invites us to join him saying, "You are the light of the world....let your light shine for others, so that they many see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14,16).

I give thanks to God for each one of you, for your love of God, for your witness to God's love and light that we know in Jesus, which shines brightest in the darkness, and which over comes evil and despair. I praise God for your love of the Church, for your struggle to understand brothers and sisters different from yourself. Praise God that "the Church's life" does not center around us, but that the Church's "life and mission are a joyful participation in Christ's ongoing life and work" (Book of Order F-1.0202). "Christ gives to the Church its faith and life, its unity and mission, its order and discipline" (F-1.0204). "He is its hope, and...the Church as Christ's body, is bound to his authority and thus free to live in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God....In Christ the Church receives its truth and appeal, its holiness, and its unity" (F-1.0205). Praise God for the collective impact we have on the communities where our light shines to God be the glory.

Your presbytery staff, which you support so graciously all year long, wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year!