In This Issue
News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Conferences, camps & other resources
News of the Board of Pensions
News around the PC(USA) and more
Just a few more
Quick Links
Social Media

August 14, 2015

News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Synod School 2015
-- and next 2016
Plans already in place
for 2016 Synod School
John Bell It hit 550.That's how many people -- from the smallest children to the older adults - took part in Synod School July 26-31 at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. And while another season of the ever-popular, mid-summer ministry just recently ended, some elements of next year's program are already in place. It is scheduled July 24-29 at BVU. John Bell, at right, a world renowned lecturer, preacher and teacher, will be the convocation speaker. A few more details are at "Next Year."
Willadsen finds humor in life of the parish
Tom Willadsen Nearly all humor is at the expense of someone. Self-deprecation -- making fun of oneself -- is usually funny. But there's the other side. "What is it if you're deprecating someone else? It's mean," Tom Willadsen said. Willadsen, who recently led the class, "Humor: Tool or Weapon," at Synod School, knows something about humor. In fact, he's written a book about it, "OMG! LOL! Faith and Laughter." The complete story can be found at "Humor."
Facebook, YouTube abound with hope
This year's Synod School theme, "A Future with Hope," found its way into the summer ministry's Facebook group: "
Synod School - 'Is this Heaven?  No, it's Iowa'" and onto YouTube with a video that asks, "Where do you find hope?"
Questions of hope
Theresa Cho, who was the convocation speaker at this summer's Synod School, took the theme of the midsummer ministry, "A Future with Hope," and offered perspectives of hope in each of her morning presentations. A question or questions accompanied each of her lectures, and a number of those who attended Synod School asked for copies of those questions. The questions, along with the presentation day and title, can be found at "Future with Hope."
Out of the past: Top-11 reasons
Synod School is neat -- from 1996
Nearly 20 years ago someone put together a top-11 list that noted the top reasons "Synod School is Neat." The year was 1996. Synod School took place at Grinnell (Iowa) College. At least one thing hadn't changed by 2015. There was still ice cream. Find the top-11 reasons at "Synod School is Neat."

Brookfield Presbyterian, Presbyterian Homes
plan partnership in shared ministry
There are big changes underway for Brookfield Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbytery of Milwaukee, as it develops an innovative and creative shared ministry in partnership with Presbyterian Homes of Wisconsin. A story in a July edition of Fresh Impressions, the newsletter of the Presbytery of Milwaukee, noted the Brookfield congregation has been worshiping at its current location since 1963 and it's looking forward to its move to a new location -- Dickson Hollow, a senior living community being developed in Menomonee by Presbyterian Homes of Wisconsin. The site is only about five miles from Brookfield's current location. The complete story by Donna Holmes, the presbytery's communications associate, can be found at "Brookfield Presbyterian." Additional information about Dickson Hollow can be found on the website of Presbyterian Homes and Services at "Ministry Collaboration."
Gathering of Presbyterian Women
set next summer in Sioux Falls
Next summer's Gathering of Presbyterian Women in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies is scheduled June 15-18 in Sioux Falls, S.D. The theme of the event is drawn from the prayer of St. Francis of Asisi, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace." Susan Jackson Dowd, executive director of Presbyterian Women, will be the keynote speaker. Additional details about the Gathering can be found at "Presbyterian Women in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies."
Conferences, camps & other resources
'Oasis' regional Christian ed
event set in Kansas City
The regional Christian education event, Oasis, is planned Oct. 25-27 in Kansas City, Mo., and keynote speaker this year is John Vest, visiting assistant professor of evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va. Vest, who spent 15 years of ministry in the Chicago metropolitan area most recently as the associate pastor for youth ministry at Fourth Presbyterian Church, has now been invited to the post at Union. Vest's keynotes will address the theme "Now is the Time! Living the Gospel in a Post-Christendom World." Oasis details and registration materials can be found at "Christian Education."
Hansen blogs "Letters to a Young Pastor"
Gary Neal Hansen Gary Neal Hansen, associate professor of church history at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, has been writing a series of blog posts titled, "Letters to a Young Pastor." In a July post, Hansen wrote about the "voice from heaven." He noted, "When I was first considering ministry, I got very stuck; I didn't have a 'voice from heaven' telling me I was called. The Apostle Paul did, and so did some of my friends. I knew it could happen. ... A lot of people hear voices telling them what to do. And some of those voices claim to be God. This can be a very serious problem. It can take ongoing psychiatric care to cope, stay grounded, and live a functional life. That isn't you, but if a voice from heaven says you are called to ministry, you need some discernment." That complete post can be found at "Letters to a Young Pastor."
PILP offers incentive loan
to help churches reduce carbon footprint
PILP logo Congregations that want to reduce their carbon footprint and conserve energy have a new option for funding: The "Restoring Creation Loan" from the Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program. The Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Investment & Loan Program's board of directors approved the program that will provide an incentive for churches to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. Similar action was taken in June by the Presbyterian Mission Agency executive committee. That committee approved the use of endowment funds for this initiative. The complete announcement can be found at "Restoring Creation."
Church Finance Update is resource
for treasurers, churches
The Church Finance Update, a resource from Christianity Today, includes links to the 2015 Church and Clergy Tax Guide, and additional financial and human resources information. The current materials online can be found at "Church Finance Update."
Interim Ministry Training Institute
offers October-May session
Interim Training The Interim Ministry Training Institute program is scheduled October through May and offered by Sand Bur Consulting of Wisconsin. The training is designed to build competency to help congregations through pivotal transitions and a time of change. IMTI is an intensive training program offered over an eight-month period with monthly full-day sessions and reading and practicum assignments between sessions. The format includes presentation, small group discussion and case study analysis to teach both theory and practice. Details are at "Interim Ministry" and an application can be found at "Applying."
WJK 4 books Westminster John Knox Press
releases 4 new titles
Four new books from Presbyterian authors are now available through Westminster John Knox Press. While some of these new resources encourage essential spiritual habits for Christian living, like forgiveness and charity, others offer helpful guides for worship and Bible study. The complete announcement from the publisher is at "Four Titles."
IRMS offers new video streaming capabilities
IRMSLOGO It's now possible to live-stream video resources from Iowa Religious Media Services. Sharon Strohmeier, IRMS executive director, noted, "A select group of six of our most popular titles are now available on your computer, iPad or other electronic device. The flexibility of streaming allows you to access high quality video content anywhere, opening an array of possibilities for your ministry." Members can access the streaming videos at "Live Stream."
Presbyterian Writers Guild
opens 3-phase writing contest
Presby Writers Logo Inspired by Jesus' practice of teaching with parables, the Presbyterian Writers Guild is offering a three-phase writing contest as it builds toward its luncheon at the 2016 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly in Portland, Ore. The Guild chose the format as a way to inspire theological reflection on issues that confront the church. Open to all members of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, the contests will accept submissions from any genre including mystery, romance, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction and others. The complete story from the Presbyterian News Service is at "Writing Contest."
News of the Board of Pensions
BOP makes clergy salaries reports available
BOP Connections Logo The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has tabulated effective salary data for 2015 to assist decision-makers with reviewing clergy compensation. Two reports are available, one organized by congregation size and years of service, and the other by synod. This story and more are available in the August edition of Board Connections.
News around the PC(USA) and more
PMA executive committee meets in Philadelphia
Mission agency The Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met for its annual retreat at the offices of the Presbytery of Philadelphia July 22-24. In addition to business items addressed, the committee participated in four site visits, learning more about ministry initiatives in the Philadelphia area. The first reported action of the committee was a response to a request for the use of the chapel at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville to conduct a same-gender marriage. The committee approved the request, saying its use was "consistent with the center's chapel and building use policy, for any couple bearing a lawfully issued marriage license." The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Executive Committee."
Office of Intercultural Ministries
Big Tent PCUSA new unveiled at Big Tent
As the nation grows increasingly diverse, the way the church engages in ministry must also evolve. In an effort to meet the ever-changing needs of the changing church, Racial Ethnic & Women's Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) unveiled at Big Tent a new office -- the Office of Intercultural Ministries. Intercultural ministry is an intentional approach to develop and strengthen diverse relationships that foster comprehensive mutuality, reciprocity and equality. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Intercultural Ministries."
National Black Presbyterian Caucus
speakers address 'signs of the times'
Black caucus Keynote speakers and workshop leaders from across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) came together at the 2015 National Black Presbyterian Caucus to provide participants with responsive actions, that will equip them with methods to reconnect to God and one another, and empower implementation in local churches and communities. "It's important that participants walk away from this event educated, equipped and empowered to respond to the signs of the times, based on individual human experiences, as well as climate, cultural and societal changes, and the action of being a collective Christian witness while being transformative in the world," noted the Rev. Dr. Arlene Gordon, president of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Black Presbyterian Caucus."
Denomination launches antiracism
Ask Why You Matter campaign at Big Tent
Incidents of racially charged violence across the nation, and the public reaction and outcry for justice that followed each, have once again brought to light underlying racial tensions that continue to exist in American society. At Big Tent 2015 recently in Knoxville, Tenn., the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially launched the Ask Me Why You Matter to Me Campaign. The campaign is a church-wide effort to recommit Presbyterians to racial justice and faithfully proclaim that the lives of people of color matter. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Antiracism." More news from the Office of Racial Ethnic & Women's Ministries can be found in its most recent newsletter at "Love One Another."
PC(USA) African American
clergywomen gathered in Minneapolis
For the first time in nearly 20 years, more than 30 African American clergywomen gathered from across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for a time of spiritual rest and renewal during the African American Clergywomen's Retreat. The retreat took place in Minneapolis just prior to the National Gathering of Presbyterian Women in June. The retreat addressed specific challenges faced by African American women in ministry, and offering a place for relationship building and spiritual rejuvenation. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "African American Clergywomen."
Gradye Parsons Parsons responds to creation
of 'Muslim-free zones'
Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) responded last week to the proliferation of what are being called "Muslim-free zones." Parsons wrote, "With every act of violence in the United States, whether at a church, a military recruiting station, or a movie theater, we revisit the possibility of yet another incident, carried out by armed, sometimes unstable or radicalized individuals, whose goal is to murder large numbers of people in public places. That fear is exacerbated by daily news of murderous acts by Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other groups that are trying to recruit followers across the globe, including from our own communities. One of the latest manifestations of fear of such violence is the creation of 'Muslim-free zones' by business owners in several states, including Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas and New Hampshire." Parsons' complete response can be found at "Zones."
PMA board chair says support
for 1001 movement remains strong
Marilyn Gamm PCUSA Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Chair Marilyn Gamm told attendees at the national 1001 New Worshiping Communities Conference last night that support for the church's new worshiping communities remains "strong and unshaken" by events of the past year. "I know it has been especially painful to you," she said via Skype. "You are grieving the loss of national leaders in the movement that you liked and trusted, who inspired you to risk trying new ways of being church. This is all very painful to me as well." The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Strong and Unshaken."
1001 conference goers encouraged
1001 to pursue relationships
The Rev. Keith Gunter remembers what the first year of starting a new worshiping community was like. He'd moved from Georgia to Tennessee with his wife and one year old child to start, from scratch what is now New Creation Church. "We had two chairs in the living room," said Gunter. "I'd be praying, look up and see my wife crying. Nothing seemed to be working that first year." The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Starting Out."
Mission Yearbook transitions
to new digital-only format
The 120-year-old "Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study" will become an online-only, free digital resource starting in 2016. The move, according to the announcement from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, broadens the reach of the book's audience by sharing its content in a timelier manner and also demonstrates good stewardship of church resources. The publication dates back to 1892 as a simple calendar of prayer to help women's societies pray for missionaries on designated days. It has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States. The complete announcement can be found at "Mission Yearbook."
Mid-council representatives meet before Big Tent
Meeting July 29-30 on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s mid-councils -- synod and presbytery executives and stated clerks -- worshiped, talked, celebrated and pondered the ongoing mission of the PC(USA). Discussion groups over the two days addressed topics such as the 222nd General Assembly, worship resources, communications, mission partnerships, ecumenical and interfaith work, race relations, the future of funding and immigration ministries. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Meeting Before."
PC(USA) weighs evolving
world mission partnerships
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through Presbyterian World Mission, has more than 100 partnerships around the world, most of them with Presbyterian and Reformed churches in the countries where the PC(USA) and partner churches participate together in mission. Some of those partners have celebrated the decisions made by the General Assembly concerning changes in ordination standards and the definition of marriage passed at the 2010 and 2014 General Assemblies, respectively. Other partners have challenged those decisions but chosen to stay in partnership with the PC(USA). And three churches have chosen to break relationship with the PC(USA) over those issues. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "World Mission."
Racial ethnic caucuses, councils
elect, install new leadership
Big Tent PCUSA new As part of the Big Tent 2015 held in Knoxville, Tenn., two of the Racial Ethnic caucuses and councils elected and installed new leadership to serve two-year terms. The National Asian Presbyterian Council elected and installed new members to the leadership cabinet, including Victorious Adentius Hamel as moderator. The National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus also elected and installed new leadership, including the Rev. Raafat Zaki, who will serve as the moderator of the caucus. Just prior to the Big Tent, the National Black Presbyterian Caucus also elected and installed new leadership. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Elected and Installed."
Just one more
Talking about vs. being racially diverse
Fact Tank Pew
Michael Lipka of the Pew Research Center produced a story last month about the diversity within specific religious groups -- from the congregational level and among broader Christian traditions. Before jumping to the chart and looking for Presbyterians, readers should probably remember this line from Lipka's article: "If a religious group had exactly equal shares of each of the five racial and ethnic groups (20% each), it would get a 10.0 on the index; a religious group made up entirely of one racial group would get a 0.0. By comparison, U.S. adults overall rate at 6.6 on the scale." Lipka's complete story can be found at "Diversity."
Some of the hoaxes people actually believed
Mental Floss Magazine John Green is host to what might be called -- well, Mental Floss does call it so -- a "fix of trivia-tastic information." It's not that your editor spends a good part of his day watching videos -- well, maybe -- but Mental Floss is always a good place to look. For this installment, Green looks at some of history's greatest hoaxes. You wouldn't believe this stuff -- well, some did. It's at "Balloon Boy."