Topics in this eDIGEST:

  1. REFLECT: ‘Ruling elders rule – and amen to that!’ quotes 223rd GA co-moderator as she offers ideas about shared ministry
  2. LISTEN: Diverse leaders discuss impact of racism, pandemic in latest episode of ‘Everyday God-Talk’
  3. NOTE: 3-cent GA per capita increase, retirement offers and travel bans all responses to OGA budget shortfall amid COVID-19
  4. CONSIDER: Pandemic blues heighten God’s glory to come
  5. ATTEND: Board of Pensions offers online learning
  6. CONSIDER: Could the “Second Sunday” series save Sunday school?

REFLECT: ‘Ruling elders rule – and amen to that!’ quotes 223rd GA co-moderator as she offers ideas about shared ministry

Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, leads plenary session at the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis. Photo by Danny Bolin.

Posted July 9, 2020
 By Mike Ferguson | Presbyterians News Service

 LOUISVILLE _After criss-crossing the nation and travelling the globe while serving the past two years as Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri learned through the many fellow ruling elders she met more about the genius of the shared ministry practiced in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — namely, there’s plenty of work for clergy and lay leaders working together to accomplish.

“We celebrate the gifts that God has bestowed upon us all for service,” she told more than 200 people tuned into a July 8 webinar called “Celebrating the Call to Serve as a Ruling Elder,” which was put on by the Office of the General Assembly’s Mid Council Ministries and hosted by Martha Miller, manager of Ruling Elder Resources and Educator Certification. “Ours is a ministry of care and nurture that goes beyond creating church programs and balancing budgets.”

Cintrón-Olivieri quoted another ruling elder, Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010): “Ruling elders rule — and amen to that!”

Click here to read more of the comments that Cintrón-Olivieri made during the webinar that took the place of what is usually a luncheon during the General Assembly, and here to find additional resources for ruling elders.

LISTEN: Diverse leaders discuss impact of racism, pandemic in latest episode of ‘Everyday God-Talk’

Posted July 8, 2020
By Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

 LOUISVILLE — In the latest episode of “Everyday God-Talk,” a trio of diverse church leaders shares how living with the twin pandemics of the coronavirus and racism is affecting them and their respective communities.

Listen here to the first of a three-part conversation between host So Jung Kim and her guests – the Revs. Ashley DeTar Birt and Alexandra Zareth. In this segment, they discuss whether to use “protest” or “uprising” to describe the Black Lives Matter movement. In the second part, to be released July 15, the trio talks about the power of naming and how America’s racism and Black Lives Matter movement impact them, their families and friends.

Because language matters, Zareth, who is also a trained therapist, believes conversations like these, where people can practice calming down by asking “What do they mean?” and acknowledging that “maybe I heard it differently,” are valuable. But she’s not sure people are creating and honoring spaces to do that very well right now because of the stress they’re under from both the coronavirus pandemic and racism.

“When our bodies become tense, it becomes very unclear,” Zareth said. “We can’t listen very well, and we can’t think very well.”

NOTE: 3-cent GA per capita increase, retirement offers and travel bans all responses to OGA budget shortfall amid COVID-19

Posted July 9, 2020
By Rick Jones | Office of the General Assembly

As the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of going away, the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has begun looking at ways to reduce costs in the wake of shrinking dollars. Among the cost-savings measured implemented: a ban on domestic and international travel for the remainder of the calendar year and replacement of face-to-face conferences and gatherings with online meetings.

Last week, OGA leaders offered retirement incentive packages to 16 staff members ages 60 and older. They have until August 14 to accept or reject the offers. 

And at the recently concluded 224th General Assembly, commissioners approved a slight increase in the per capita rate of $8.98 per member for 2021 and 2022. The three-cent increase from the previous rate of $8.95 represents financial implications of two actions taken by the 224th General Assembly.

Read more here about the budget work, including a few thoughts from the Rev. Dr.Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, about the topic.

CONSIDER: Pandemic blues heighten God’s glory to come

Posted July 12 2020
By Chip Hardwick | Presbyterians Today

The Book of Lamentations begins with these words: How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her (Lam. 1:1–2a).

Writing for a magazine that comes out six times a year means I have early deadlines. And so, as I wrote this column in mid-April, it struck me that the words in Lamentations could have been written by a journalist reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than by an author some 2,600 years ago after the fall of Jerusalem.

With much of our nation having been shut down, our cities — once bustling with so many people — were left eerily deserted. Those hospitalized with COVID-19 sobbed through the night, longing for the touch of their families, who could not come near them. And the economic ramifications have left many of us feeling less secure and the poorest among us even more devastated.

Read more here about how Rev. Hardwick, interim executive of the Synod of the Covenant, finds hope during daunting times in the July 19 lectionary text of Romans 8:12-25.

ATTEND: Board of Pensions offers online learning

Engage with Board of Pensions educators to learn about topics important to your well-being through Board University webinars. Each webinar covers a topic in one of four topics – spiritual, health, financial or vocational well-being.

Each live webinar is offered free to employers and members (including pastors, church workers and employees of PC (USA)-affiliated employers) who participate in the benefits plan. Each webinar lasst about an hour. Attendees are awarded 50 Call to Health points. Find registration information here.

Upcoming webinars include:

  • Understanding Survival Patterns in Response to Stress – 2 p.m. (ET) Thursday, July 23.  Participants will explore how we each develop a dominant survival pattern when our stress response of fight, flight, freeze or submit is triggered, and helpful ways to respond to and support each pattern.
  • Understanding Medicare – Thursday, August 27.
  • Just Compensation: Closing the Gender Gap – Thursday, September 24.
  • The Power of Story: Using Story as the Basis for Aging Well – Tuesday, October 13.
  • College Funding – Tuesday, October 27.
  • Having the Talk with Your Parents: Addressing Changes to Health and Care Needs – Tuesday, November 10

CONSIDER: Could the “Second Sunday” series save Sunday school?

Posted July 3, 2020
Guest Commentary by Sheryle Dixon | Presbyterian Outlook

 Like many churches of all stripes, the First Presbyterian Church of Alma in Michigan has been facing dwindling Sunday school attendance for years.  The Sunday school landscape had gone from five Sunday School classes serving 25 students 20 years ago, to one class with two students in 2016.

In August 2016, the church’s education committee distributed a survey to the congregation asking, “What would you commit to?” — with regards to educational programming.  Thirty-five surveys were completed and the responses showed they would like a potluck-type gathering after church, one Sunday a month, with an educational program afterward.

With a dwindling population of children, a meal after church was a good way to invite families to stay and then provide a children’s program for the children there.  Middle schoolers and older youth would join the adults in an educational program after lunch.  Offering lunch would also meet the needs of the large number of older members in the church, since they would have a lunch prepared for them.  This approach would make sure no members were overlooked and that all members would know they were valued.

Read more here about how Dixon, a deacon at the church, and others organize the Second Sunday programs and now the Fellowship on the Fifth events too.