Being Neighborly

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Junie Ewing
Bridge Associate Presbytery Leader
jewing@glpby.org


“Acting Neighborly“

In these difficult times, the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” keeps coming to mind.  You remember, the one about the lawyer who asks Jesus to define “neighbor” so he might know who is neighbor and who is not.  As a lawyer, he wants to obey the law to love God, neighbor and self.  Would Jesus please give him a definition so he might apply appropriate limits to caring?

Now Jesus begins to answer the lawyer with a story. The “good-guy” here is a mixed-blood foreigner who worships God in the wrong place and the wrong way – a Samaritan.  Jesus names him “good”. Then Jesus surprises the lawyer by expanding “neighbor” to how we are being with others.  Instead of defining neighbor by neighborhood or zip code, Jesus reveals everyone is our neighbor, so we are to “act neighborly”.  Like the Samaritan who interrupted his trip to help the stranger left for dead on the side of the road, we too are invited to step out of our comfort zone.  We too are invited onto paths that may feel uncomfortable, that some may call risky.  Yet how else but through “acting neighborly” might we address a world filled with hatred, fear, and strife?

Indeed, our world is starving for those who act neighborly.  There are many in our cities, towns and rural areas who thirst for acts of neighborliness.  Yet at the same time, our African American brothers and sisters are clearly named “Not-My-Neighbor” by political structures, laws, speech and acts of hatred and violence.  For the color of one’s skin still opens or closes doors to housing, loans, education and jobs.  In such an un-neighborly environment, how might we be their neighbor?  What might “acting neighborly” toward our African American sisters and brothers look like in your life, in your community, through your leadership positions?

The answer lies within you. You know your context best and so need to discern your own answer.  Even so, here is question that I ask you to consider.  It is:  What might the world look like if we used our leadership positions to open doors to African American brothers and sisters as faithful, tangible, neighborly actions?

In Christ Jesus,

Rev. Dr. Junie Ewing
Bridge Associate Presbytery Leader

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

 

 

 

Did you know…what our Session Clerks are doing???

Blog Post by
Rev. Joy Myers
Stated Clerk
jmyers@glpby.org


 

G-3.0104  Officers

            …Each council shall elect a clerk who shall record the transactions of the council, keep its rolls of membership and attendance, maintain any required registers, preserve its records, and furnish extracts from them when required by another council of the church.  Such extracts, verified by the clerk, shall be evidence in any council of the church.  The clerk of the session shall be a ruling elder elected by the session for such a term as it may determine.

           I KNOW!  That can sound intimidating…but the wonderful part is that we have so many amazing session clerks in this presbytery who support one another and share ideas of how to keep the myriad of details that are required in the minutes, registers and rolls of each congregation.  You always know you have support.

            We have held three peer review gatherings for session clerks:  August 10 at New Hope Presbyterian Church in St Charles; September 14 at Sullivan Presbyterian Church in Sullivan and September 21 at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church in St Louis.  There were 46 different congregations represented out of the 76 congregations of the presbytery.  I really want to see 100% of the congregations participate in this review.  We currently have over 60% participation.

            There were some areas where we found that we do not always follow the guidelines set forth in the Book of Order or we were unfamiliar with them.

  • First: G-3.0201b, W-2.4012, W-3.3616e – ask that we provide for distribution of the sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper (at least quarterly)] to members isolated from the community’s worship.
  • Second: G-3.0202a – states that commissioners are elected to presbytery and report after each presbytery meeting. Many said they rotate or that the pastor attends.  We really need the voices of ruling elders as well as teaching elders.  Now that the presbytery is incorporating educational aspects to the gathering times, you never know what idea or information you will take away with you.
  • Third: G-3.0201c – The training, examination, ordination and installation of newly-elected ruling elders and deacons is recorded. Most sessions do a portion of these tasks but the Book of Order asks that sessions do all of them…that it is not up to the pastor but to the session to decide the leadership of the congregation.
  • Fourth: G-3.0113 – There was a financial review or audit. These should be conducted annually even if your session reviews the finances monthly at your meetings.

            We are keeping a copy of the insurance declaration page for property, liability, and officer insurance in the files of the congregations of the presbytery that are kept in the office.

            Three resources available from the Board of Pensions, which you can request directly from them, are:

  • Understanding Effective Salary
  • Living by the Gospel: A Guide to Structuring Ministers’ Terms of Call
  • Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches: What you need to know for 2019

       These are especially helpful as you approach the end of the current budget year and are looking at the compensation for all your church staff but especially the pastor’s terms of call.         

Rev Joy Myers, Stated Clerk

Road to Reconciliation

Blog Post by
Rev. John Harrisson
Dismantling Racism and Privilege (DRAP) Team Moderator
afftonpastor@gmail.com


When asked why God’s people in the United States are still so divided by race in churches, neighborhoods, schools and regions of the country, a lot of people tend to shrug their shoulders and say that’s just the way it is. We can be tempted to believe our history of racial violence and subjugation ended with the Civil Rights movement, and the separation we have today can therefore seem self-selecting, a matter of comfort level or choice. It is easy to forget that the separation we still experience was built by design and enforced by law (The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, lays out this argument particularly well).

This information can feel depressing, but I believe learning more about how racial segregation was built by human hands is, at its root, an exercise in hope. If we still live, move and have our being in divided communities because of what has been built, that means the things that divide us can also be dismantled. Something else can be built in their place. That, in short, is the mission of the Dismantling Racism and Privilege Team. We join Jesus Christ in breaking down the dividing walls (Eph. 2:14) in our presbytery piece by piece, with the hope of building something new in its place.

We can be tempted to believe it is enough to dismantle racist laws. The problem is that while the laws may be gone, the walls they built still remain: in our families; in our churches; in the air we breathe and the media we consume. Our purpose in leading a journey to Montgomery, Alabama this October is to lay a new foundation as a Presbytery, and to see together what God is building.

It has been a breath of fresh air to see all the stakeholders who have pledged to join us on the road to reconciliation. Much more than a simple mission trip, we see this journey as a seed, a new beginning we can bring home with us to take root and grow. It is a seed of interracial community and spiritual formation, a seed of acknowledgement and healing and boldness to approach the throne of grace in our time of need. It is an investment in developing new leadership and stronger networks for a broader project of reconciliation and new growth in the years ahead.

We are closing in on our application deadline of August 1, and so we invite you with urgency and zeal to consider joining us on the bus in October and in the community,  we hope to sustain when we return home.

Details of the journey may be found here.

Rev. John Harrison

 

 

Follow Your passion!

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


This past Saturday, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Director of the Office of Public Witness, posed two question to approximately 70 Giddings-Lovejoy members. What is your passion?  What are your concerns? The Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Jimmie is the director and also my brother.

The Social Witness Action Team (comprised of social witness team members from across the Synod of Mid-America presbyteries) hosted the Troubling the Waters: For the Healing of the World event. It was a wonderful and relaxing event filled with relevant information, dynamic music, discussions, a nice lunch and fellowship. There were Giddings-Lovejoy members who came from the North and South and East and West in Missouri to learn more about the Office of Public Witness (OPW) and local issues. 

For over 45 minutes, Jimmie gave an overview of the work of his office and reminded us that “people are looking for the presence of the church outside the doors of the church.” He also reminded participants that our Presbyterian forefather John Calvin wrote, “Civil magistery is a calling not only holy and legitimate, but by far the most sacred and honorable in human life… Therefore, we are called to be engaged in the public arena, and ask how God is calling me to act out my faith in the world.” 

What I truly enjoyed about this event was that the Social Witness team provided presenters who embodied a national focus as well as those focusing on local issues. Jimmie discussed national issues (i.e.; sex trafficking, racial injustice, gun violence, and the opioid epidemic, etc.) while the six panelists from local Presbyterian churches and community organizations highlighted their passion and concerns for educational and health equity, community and church relations, elder care, racial justice, payday lending, and the benefits of providing access to community gardens. Each individual presented participants with a wealth of information and resources.

What I loved about this event was that Giddings-Lovejoy folks showed up. The diversity of the participants (age, faith community, race, geography) demonstrated that Presbyterians across this presbytery care deeply about justice. In fact, so deeply that they gave up their Saturday to be a part of this event. Also, people in our communities are passionate not only about engaging social justice issues, but they continue to learn other ways to be a presence of hope and mercy in and for the world. My hope is that this event not only provided new information, but also opened the doors to new friendships and partnerships.

Below are a few links to some of the resources that were mentioned.

Peace,

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

Resources:

  1. Social Witness Office (PCUSA): https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/acswp/topics/
  2. Office of Public Witness: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/washington/
  3. Booklet: Holy Discontent:  Grassroots Advocacy and Organizing in the PC(USA): https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/holy-discontentment-advocacy-resource/

Presbytery Practices: In the Neighborhood

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


Last week, all five members of the presbytery staff packed up a day’s worth of work, computers, and snacks and traveled down south to Cape Girardeau for a day “In the Neighborhood.” We have traveled and worked together on several occasions with presbytery gatherings and leadership retreats, but this was different, and I could feel the excitement in the air as I drove down Interstate 55.  “In the Neighborhood” was an intentional team effort to be present to presbytery members in a distinct way – to take our hands and feet into the very geographical regions to which normally only one or two of the staff travels. Normally, our members from these regions travel to us and it was only fair that we travel to them also.

Not only did we take our physical selves into the area, but we took our presbytery practices also.  Over the last year and ½, I have come to recognize and appreciate the spiritual practices embodied by the staff as they carry out their work. Although we do not talk about “presbytery practices,” there are certain perspectives and actions that provide a rhythm to our lives as we work together as people called to serve God, presbytery members, our communities, and each other.

Using those practices, we spent Wednesday evening meeting with teaching and ruling elders and commissioned pastors who had particular situations that needed to be discussed. Thursday we rotated between working on office tasks and greeting visitors. We also called others serving in pastoral leadership roles to check-in with them and offered to pray for them as prompted by the Spirit. Since the next presbytery gathering is at First Cape Girardeau, Leigh and Joy toured the church site with the pastor to discuss the gathering checklist and discuss ways to ensure that the gathering goes as smoothly as possible. Our time there was a joy. Taking the office out into the presbytery was a good idea and if we continue to be guided by the same presbytery practices that we embody in the office in Creve Coeur, I believe we will continue the good work of deepening our connectional ties and strengthening our cords of friendship in ways that will move us closer to the ideal of the Beloved Kindom that God has called us to embody.

Here are the Rules of Life which govern our steps and actions as Giddings-Lovejoy staff:

  • Remembering that we are the Body of Christ called to be a light to the world in tangible and practical ways.
  • Paying attention when others contact us with particular needs, concerns, and questions and responding in an appropriate and caring manner.
  • Praying for others as we learn of their concerns, conflicts, and grief.
  • Listening and learning from others who take the time to share with us and inform our work as staff and colleagues and being appreciative of their wisdom.
  • Breaking bread together as a community of friends and colleagues, thus taking the time to get to know each other beyond the work of the presbytery.
  •  Laughing with and loving all of God’s creation.
  •  Going where God sends us with the right spirit and with an open heart while accepting that things won’t go always as planned, but the experience will give us guidance for next steps.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone. But you are not free whether you white or whether you black, until I am free.  Because no man is an island to himself…And I’m not just fighting for myself and for the black race, but I’m fighting for the white; I’m fighting for the Indians; I’m fighting for the Mexicans; I’m fighting for the Chinese; I’m fighting for anybody because as long as they are human beings, they need freedom.[1]

Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer was born into poverty to share croppers. Her father was a Baptist preacher. The youngest of 20 children, she knew firsthand the cruelty of poverty. She left school in the sixth grade in order to pick cotton on a Mississippi plantation. For over 18 years, she worked as a sharecropper and timekeeper on the Marlow plantation. In 1962, After attending a meeting in Ruleville, Mississippi, Hamer decided to register to vote. It took her months to pass the literacy test and become a registered voter. Although her education was shorted due to sharecropping; although she was shot at and beaten half to death for registering to vote, and although she was unable to have children due to an unauthorized hysterectomy—Hamer’s resilience was formidable. In 1962, she became a SNCC organizer in Sunflower County, Mississippi. In 1964, she became the vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as they attempted to gain seats at the 1964 Democratic National Convention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4NhURBrtI8). Hamer’s social activist legacy continued as she later established a cooperative, collaborated on the building of a low-income daycare center, and the construction of two hundred units of low-income housing for her Mississippi community. Hamer is the essence of what we celebrate during Black History Month.

On July 13, 2003, The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy voted to adopt and implement Strategic Directions, one of which is “Dismantling Racism and White Privilege.”  As staff to our current Dismantling Racism and Privilege Action Team (DRAP), I can say that the work of addressing systemic racism continues. DRAP continues to grow and the team members are full of enthusiasm. This year, they are continuing to broaden the work of dismantling racism. This year, they are providing a scholarship to Gary Naylor to attend the White Privilege Conference in Cedar Falls, Iowa (https://www.whiteprivilegeconference.com). DRAP continues to learn ways to articulate the positive value of a racially inclusive space and community. Just yesterday, they participated in a webinar with Kikanza Nuri-Robins to explore how to be more culturally proficient in our efforts to shift the culture of the presbytery and within our congregations   (http://www.kikanzanurirobins.com).

Join us if you are interested in developing a deeper understanding of racism and in helping us to uproot this systemic problem embedded in our culture and within individuals. DRAP meets the fourth Monday of each month at Ladue Chapel at 1:00 p.m. Remember: “Racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem because it denies our true identity as children of God. In Jesus Christ, God frees us to love and teaches us how to live as a family.[2] If you want to learn more about what’s DRAP is doing, please contact the moderator, John Harrison, at afftonpastor@gmail.com.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

[1] “The Only Thing We Can Do is Work Together,” in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer. This speech was delivered by Mrs. Hamer at a Chapter Meeting of the National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in 1967.  See https://www.amazon.com/Speeches-Fannie-Lou-Hamer-Alexander-ebook/dp/B004YZJINC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1551204768&sr=1-1&keywords=9781604738230.

 

[2] Facing Racism:  A Vision of the Beloved Community.  Approved by the 211th General Assembly (1999) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Advent – A Journey of Faith

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org 


Last Sunday was a busy day for the presbytery!

I started Sunday morning off listening to my GPS inform me that some of the streets to First Brighton were unverifiable. Not one to be derailed by GPS, I headed out only to get lost and be rescued later by a wonderful member of the church. My GPS took me to another church down the road. Thankfully, a member of Brighton collected me from the parking lot of the local museum and drove me to their beautiful edifice.

After the service I rushed to preach at Moro Presbyterian Church as they celebrated 170 years of service. Walking into the fellowship hall after the service, I was able to spend some time looking over 170 years of memorabilia. It was a delight to look over worship bulletins from decades ago, to listen to members identify their photos in the directories, and to listen to the third oldest member of the church tell stories about those who have passed on to join the Church Triumphant. I was reminded by their witness that this faith journey is built upon the faith of those who came before and our faith will be built upon by those who come after us.

My last stop of the day was the installation of Andrew Kasberg, as the new head of staff, at Dardenne Presbyterian Church.  It was a fitting end to a long day.  One theme that stood out that encapsulated the entire day was one of the opening praise songs “Who You Say I Am.” As I listened to the choir, I was reminded that we are indeed a chosen people, called and loved by God. That God, Emmanuel, is indeed with us – and does not stand against us. It was a beautiful song reminding me that as a child of God I truly belonged to God and that Christ died so that we could be free.

As we continue to journey through this Advent season—let us be like the African Sankofa Bird – looking back while walking into the future. In this season of waiting – let us pause for a brief moment. Take time to give thanks to God for the faithful witnesses who have gone before us. Pause and give thanks for being one of many being used by God to prepare the path for those who will come after us. And for all these things we give thanks.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

A Brief GA Reflection and Revelation

Blog Post by
Rev. Cedric Portis
Co-Moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA)


The 223 General Assembly is upon us. I’m confident that our preparation and planning will pay off this week as we welcome and host Presbyterians from all over the world.

These past two years I’ve had the privilege of serving as co-moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA). As I continued my work as pastor of Third Presbyterian, there were times the work seemed overwhelming. It was then, in the middle of an already overloaded schedule, God gave me a revelation.

This is how it happened.

When I normally plan my day, I come up with a list of what I HAVE to do.  My revelation is very simple. I change HAVE to GET!!!  This may seem insignificant, but it is revelatory for me. This answer to prayer changes my focus and motivation.

I want to share this testimony with you so that we may all realize the gift we have.  As the Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy, we can look at this week and say collectively we GET the opportunity to interact, impact, and transform the church, as we do the work of GA.

Perhaps this small change in perspective will continue to excite and motivate us this upcoming week. We have asked the PC(USA) to meet us in St. Louis, and now they are arriving by the thousands! I’m looking forward to seeing you there as well.

Rev. Cedric Portis
Pastor, Third Presbyterian Church

GA#223 – 10 Days Away

Blog Post by
Rev. Carol DeVaughan
Co-Moderator of the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA)


In case you aren’t aware – the General Assembly of PCUSA meets in St. Louis in about 10 days. I really hope this is not news to any of you, because you, as members of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy are part of the hosts for this gathering. For more than two years those of us who are part of the planning team have been working on the myriad details of our hosting responsibilities.

We have planned for welcoming folks from around the world, at the airport and hotels, and the corridors of the Convention Center. We have planned tours to various points of interest in our region. We have asked local congregations to welcome and feed Assembly attendees at their congregational worship on June 17. We have designed apparel for volunteers to wear, and gifts to be given to visitors. So many people wanted to be part of the choir for the opening worship, we had to start a waiting list. There are new web and Facebook pages; social media entries, a video and other publicity materials. We’ve planned a “hands-on mission” project and area for everyone to feel they are contributing to helping the STL region. So much! So many people already involved! And we still need more volunteers.

Why should you care, or offer your time and talents and treasure to support the meeting of the General Assembly? Well, the short answer is because we are GA. Just as I often said during my year as Presbytery Moderator, “We are the Presbytery.” We Presbyterians are connectional. We believe that through Christ we are all part of one another. And this concept is the theme of this Assembly “Kindom Building.” You and I are “kin;” all God’s children are “kin.” As kin we care about and for one another, especially those for whom life is a struggle, those for whom injustice is a daily fact of life, those who cry out to God and therefore to us for help.

Being part of our larger church is both a privilege and a part of who we already are. So I hope to see all of you during this General Assembly. It is a joy to witness the church at work in such a special way, an opportunity that will not be closer or easier for years to come.

Rev. Carol DeVaughan, HR
Co-Moderator, Committee on Local Arrangements