Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader

Advent is the season of waiting. During advent, we light candles on the advent wreath with each candle representing an element of our faith. These elements are hope, faith, joy, and peace. The fifth candle, Christ’s candle, represents light and purity.

Advent is a time to stop and reflect on our calling in Christ. As Presbyterians, we believe everyone is called to a particular vocation. This calling asks each of us to serve our society and the world. In her book, The Spirit of Advent: The Meaning is in the Waiting, Paula Gooder reflects on the calling of Abraham and Sarah and how their lives can guide us in our sense of call and vocation. She writes, “With God the command is both to go and to come. The ‘go’ element involves leaving behind many things; the command to ‘come’ involves knowing that God will accompany us on the journey.” What is God calling you to leave behind this Advent season?  How do you experience God on your journey of faith?

Advent is a time to believe that the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ is the God who calls us to wait. We are called to wait for the seeds of faith that have been planted in our spirit to sprout into new life. For me, I wait in anxious anticipation for fruitful congregations, chaplains, teachers, new worshiping communities, and other specialized ministries to bud, blossom, and bloom, all in God’s time. What do you find yourself waiting for during this Advent season?

Advent is a time for change. God’s change in God’s time. Change may mean letting go. It often means loss and grief. Gooder writes, “God’s call to us remains a call to change: to leaving and accompanying, to moving and changing, to growing and flourishing. It is part of human nature to yearn for stability, to put down roots, and to stay put; but it is also a rule of nature that things that do not move do not live.” What changes are you welcoming into your life this Advent? 

Advent is a call to life. As we embrace the core elements of our life in Christ – hope, faith, joy, and peace–we enjoy the happiness of God through the fruit of the Spirit. Blessings to all during this Advent season as we engage the Triune God and find new life together. Amen.

Rev. Craig M. Howard


Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. On Saturday at the presbytery gathering, Janice McMillen and I were presenting certificates to the congregations that qualified for Hunger Action. Earlier, Rosemary Mitchell and Bill McConnell from the Presbyterian Mission Agency presented certificates to the 28 congregations that qualified for 4 by 4 special offerings. We had many people coming onto the stage for Hunger Action, and Janice asked them to stay up on the stage so that we could applaud them all together at the end. There were 45 congregations that qualified for Hunger Action. After reading the last name and handing the framed certificate and check to the last congregation, I turned to see rows of smiling faces proudly holding their certificates spread across the length of the stage. For a moment, I was overwhelmed. All I could say was, “Wow!!”

I want to thank all of the congregations that participated and all the commissioners and members that witnessed the celebration and awards on Saturday. I hope each one shares the award with their members at their home church, and make sure they receive applause for their great work. I know this isn’t a stopping point for any of you; it’s just a moment to pause and celebrate. For example, take a look at First Kirkwood’s Rise Against Hunger which they did on Sunday, seen here.

Also on Saturday, Diane Moffett gave an inspiring message promoting the Matthew 25 initiative. For the first time, we live streamed the worship service. So far, we’ve had 173 views! You can view it here. 

As we come to a close of calendar year 2019 and enter the season of Advent, I am anticipating Giddings-Lovejoy doing great things together in 2020. We will flesh out the Matthew 25 program and make significant progress against poverty and racism as we learn ways to become a presbytery of vital congregations. Thank you all, again, for a wonderful presbytery gathering.  Along with the staff, I thank you for your support and an exciting and full 2019! God bless you all!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Introducing Matthew 25

Matthew 25 will be introduced at the Saturday Presbytery Gathering. The three pillars of the program are vital congregations, poverty, and anti-racism. The following reflection from Julie Nicolai is about her experience on the recent Dismantling Racism and White Privilege bus trip to the Montgomery Alabama.

Rev. Craig M. Howard


A Journey Never to be Forgotten

I recently had the pleasure of going on the bus tour to Montgomery, Alabama to visit civil rights sites sponsored by the Presbytery’s Team on Dismantling Racism and Privilege.  The trip included attendees from varied backgrounds and a number of churches within the Presbytery.  We visited two museums and attended Sunday morning worship service at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.

The service at Dexter Avenue was amazing, with Grammy award caliber singers, dancing, shouting and clapping, plus a sermon that made me want to get up and take action.  I must say we blew the roof off the place. 

We visited The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Incarceration on Saturday.  It was a sobering experience.  It took us on a journey from the horrors of slavery, through the terrorism of the Jim Crow era, and on to the contemporary injustices of our criminal justice system.  Along the way, we were brought to tears by powerful period images, quotes and interactive displays.  I will not soon forget the absolute and inescapable brutality of systematic rape forced upon female slaves (and some male slaves) by the white plantation system.  I will forever remember the photograph showing a hanged man’s feet above a crowd of leering men, some of them laughing.

Our visit to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice was powerful, eerie, angering and sad, yet left us with hope for redemption and salvation.  Hundreds of large, metal rectangular blocks hang from the ceiling of the memorial.  Each one has the name of a county and the names of the people that were lynched there.  Some were lynched for simply looking at a white person the wrong way, or just being in the vicinity when a barn happened to burn down.  The most amazing thing about it is that exact replicas of each block are laid on the ground outside the Memorial, with each county being challenged to come and claim their respective block, thus assuming accountability for its actions, and initiating the healing process.  So far, 40 counties are in the process of claiming blocks. 

There are 4,000 documented lynching’s in the United States.  They are not confined to the South.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, more that are undocumented.  There were 60 documented lynching’s in Missouri and one in St. Louis County.  Here are the names of the victims of lynching’s that occurred within the Presbytery of Giddings – Lovejoy’s boundaries:

  • John Buckner, 1894, St. Louis County          
  • Erastus Brown, 1897, Franklin County
  • Ray Hammonds, 1921, Pike County             
  • Henry Caldwell, 1882, Iron County
  • William McDonald, 1883, Pike County        
  • Curtis Young, 1898, Pike County
  • Sam Young, 1898, Pike County                    
  • Love Redd, 1915, Pike County
  • William Henderson, 1895, Cape Girardeau County

Julie Nikolai, History Team of the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy