Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae,
     "In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.  You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has become to you.  Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.  This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant.  He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit."  Col. 1: 3-8
    There is no pastor serving in the Presbytery of Lake Michigan named Epaphras, but as I travel the presbytery, worshiping with our 66 congregations, I give thanks for our gifted preachers, loving pastors, sensitive administrators, and courageous leaders, who serve our congregations.  This Thanksgiving, join me in giving thanks for your pastor.
     I also give thanks for the faith I am privileged to witness among our congregations.  These are challenging times for the church.  These are also exciting times when our faith and witness makes a difference.  On November 8th, the Presbytery claimed a new and very old purpose statement:  "The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage, and equip worshiping communities of faith to make disciples of Jesus Christ with the gifts God gives them."   Thanks be to God for your witness which bears fruit to the glory of God, showing forth the grace we know through Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Post Presbytery Meeting Reflections

The Presbytery of Lake Michigan met at the First Presbyterian Church in Marshall on Saturday, November 9th.  I thought it was a great meeting.  It had three segments:  Worship, learning and business.  Each one was rich and meaningful.
     At worship we remembered the elders and minister members of Presbytery who joined the church triumphant this past year.  The host church bell choir and guitarist, John Barrett blessed us with special music. Mike Wicks preached a powerful sermon "Fighting for our Lives" based on Acts 15: 35-41.  This text is a story illustration of either/or thinking, Paul being passionate about the mission. Barnabas compassionate and encouraging valuing the relationship with John Mark, a young leader to be nurtured.  This either/or stand off transformed into a both/and reconciliation when Paul later wrote to Timothy, "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11).   
     We then learned together from Barry Johnson, founder of Polarity Partners, who introduced the lens of polarity thinking to us.  Some conflicts are not problems to be solved but natural, normal polarities to be managed like inhaling/exhaling, and activity/rest.  You can't do one for long without the other to complement. Tradition/innovation in the church, and spiritual health of the individual/spiritual health of the congregation are two polarities assessed in 18 congregations in a pilot assessment this October.  A total of 920 Presbyterians completed assessments.  We briefly looked at the results for those individual congregations and of the combined results. A resource team in the presbytery was trained by Barry to help congregational leaders interpret and learn from the assessment for future planning.  Another assessment opportunity will be available in March 2014.  Contact Karen Kelly or me to inquire about these opportunities.  
     We conducted some important Presbytery business as well.  We examined Janice Jasperse for ordination.  Her ordination service will be at 2 o'clock p.m., Sunday, November 24 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids.  She will serve the Lake City Presbyterian Church as a half time temporary pastor.  We also examined Ryan Donahoe, member of the First P.C. in Holland, in his sense of call, and moved him from inquirer to candidate. Our offering, just over $1,000, will support the  inquirers and candidates of the presbytery, such as Janice and Ryan, who are preparing for ordered ministry of Teaching Elder.  We adopted a 2014 Presbytery Consolidated Budget of $946,480, and a new Presbytery purpose statement:  "The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage and equip worshiping communities of faith to make disciples of Jesus Christ with the gifts God gives them."  Pray for the Leadership Team and me as we review our organizational structure, build future staff and budgets to support this purpose.  We also elected fifteen persons to serve on eight ministry teams, committees and agencies of the presbytery, and the following persons to serve as our commissioners to the 221st General Assembly in Detroit June 14-21, 2014:  Rev. Rob Carlson, Okemas P.C., Rev. Laurie Hartzell, First, P.C., Benton Harbor. Elder Dan Stenburg, First, P.C., Niles, Elder Polly Wilde, Westminster P.C., Jackson, YAAD: Casey Carbone, Eastminster P.C., Grand Rapids, Alternates: Rev. Linda Knieiremen, First P.C., Holland, Elder Renee S. Llagan-Donovan, Forest Hills P.C. Grand Rapids, and Synod Commissioner:  Elder Renee S. Llagan-Donovan, Forest Hills P.C. Grand Rapids.  Pray for them as they prepare for their work.
     We ended the day with two reports:  One on the ministry of the Synod of the Covenant from Christine Barnes, as she and Bill Sorensen complete six years of service as Synod Commissioners.  Doug Orbacher, PCUSA Mission Co-worker in Nicaragua shared the power story of reconciliation of two opposing persons in the war, working together on community building projects coordinated by CEPAD, our Protestant church partners there.  Doug is in the presbytery this month interpreting the global mission of the church.  The Presbytery Mission Agency is hoping to better connect our mission co-workers with presbyteries and congregations.  Think about hosting a mission co-worker at your congregation next fall.
     We thank the folks at the First Presbyterian Church in Marshall for their gracious hospitality.  

Grace and Peace