Thursday, September 17, 2015

Covenant Partners

We were blessed with the hospitality of the First Presbyterian Church in Benton Harbor at our September Presbytery meeting.  It was a BIG deal for them to host us.  I heard again and again members of the host church say, "It is our honor to host you!" It took a lot of planning and creativity to use their space and augment it with a couple of tents and auxiliary lavatories, which Presbytery was please to help them rent for the occasion.  Prayers for cooperative weather were answered.

Benton Harbor, First is a small congregation with a vital presence in a poor and challenged community.  What impressed me was the presence of their strategic partners in the community who share their mission to make a difference in the community.  This congregation is a good example of connecting with its community and collaborating in ministry.  This is not by chance but the fruit of their vision motto:  "Root Down, Branches Wide."  They are spiritual rooted in the love of God in Christ and it shows.  We have much to learn from them.  They prepared a video to tell their story.
See it here. 

We have much to celebrate for this congregation is an historic covenant partner of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan.  Part of your congregation's Shared Mission contribution to the PC(USA) helps the Presbytery of Lake Michigan support the outreach ministries of this covenant partner.  Over the past several decades we have invested in their mission. What those of us witnessed at the meeting, and here in this video are the fruits of our covenant partnership with them.

The First Presbyterian Church in Benton Harbor is one of three historic Covenant Partners of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan along with the North Presbyterian Church and it's ministry to those in Kalamazoo with mental illness, and the Advent House Ministries housed at NorthWestminster Presbyterian Church in Lansing.  Advent House Fellowship has received a PC(USA) 1001 New Worshiping Communities of Faith Investment Grant.  The New Life Korean Presbyterian Church in East Lansing is another congregation with a vibrant ministry with Korean students at MSU.  They are in need of financial support.  Speak to me if you can help by increasing your congregation's Shared Mission giving, or by a designated mission support.

Every time I visit and worship at anyone of these congregations, I am blessed and I leave with my spirit lifted.  Each has a vital mission to their neighbors, each causes me to strength beyond my comfort zone.  Each has a vibrant spirituality and faith practice to share.  As a pastor, I led mission visits to Jamaica and Cuba multiple times.  Those cross cultural visits were always transformative for me and for those accompanied me and expensive.  You don't have to travel that far to have such an uplifting experience!  Make arrangements to visit these covenant partners right here in our Presbytery.  They need us!  I believe we need them!!!  Let them minister to you!  We have much to learn from them.  Arrange to send a group to worship with them, or to hold your Session Retreat at their church, and get to know your covenant partners.  Tap some of their loving spirit and experience their radical hospitality.

Yours in Christ,    

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Beginnings Conversations, Discernment

Thirty some leaders from six participating congregations attended the New Beginnings Leader Training on August 28-29.  The six congregations are First/Buchanan, North/Kalamazoo, Parkwood/Jennison, Pine Island/Kalamazoo, Westminster/Jackson, Westlake/Battle Creek.  Please pray for these congregations as they meet in small groups this fall to discern God calling.  They will discuss assessment reports prepared by New Beginning consultants.  At the end of each report are future stories. The outcome of the congregations' discernment will be a conscious decision to collectively commit to one of those stories. 1. To redevelop their ministry, 2. To restart, 3. To merge with another congregation, 4. To close and empower a new ministry; 5. Or do nothing different, keep on keeping on as they have been doing but agreeing to set aside the anxiety and fear of the likely outcome of doing so.  The purpose is to bring clarity.  These are hard conversations, hard choices, but so very important ones.  Please hold them in prayer.