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

March 23, 2016

News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Synod School features John Bell
John Bell as convocation speaker
John Bell, the world renowned lecturer, preacher and teacher, will be the convocation speaker at Synod School this summer. Bell is a member of the Wild Goose Resource Group, an autonomous project of the Iona Community in Scotland. Synod School, which runs July 14-29 at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, is a widely known education ministry of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. Each year about 600 people participate in the courses, worship, fellowship, fun and relaxation. Details are at "Synod School."
Craig Howard writes changing
Craig Howard times, different contexts
Craig Howard, executive director for strategic partnerships in the Presbytery of Milwaukee, blogged recently about changing times and different contexts in the presbytery's blog, "Beloved Community." He noted, "Sometimes I see great parallels between the Republican Party and the Presbyterian Church, and not for the reasons you may think. On a national level, both are losing members and influence. Both are faced with changing their identity in order to survive. ... This past year I have had the opportunity to be in conversations with other presbyteries about what we are doing in Milwaukee. ... These include a one-hour presbytery meeting, support for leadership development, continual focus on new worshiping communities, and a Commission on Ministry that is more relational and proactive. I have been drilled by other presbyteries on the fine details of what we have done. We get down to budgets, membership, and participation. I have learned that change is contextual." Howard's complete post is at "Beloved Community."
Carol Howard Merritt Carol Howard Merritt headlines
Washington Island Forum
Carol Howard Merritt, well known author and speaker, will address "The Church on the Edge" at this year's Washington Island Forum that runs June 20-24. The Forum is a 40-year tradition sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and The Christian Century magazine. The four and a half-day event includes worship, workshops, discussion and contemplation in a ecumenical retreat setting on Washington Island, located about seven miles northeast of the tip of Door Peninsula. Merritt, a Presbyterian minister and senior consultant for the Center for Progressive Religion, is author of "Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation" and "Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation." She is a frequent contributor to books, blogs, magazines and journals. Details are at "Washington Island Forum."
Hillcrest opens new holistic
residential treatment facility
Hillcrest Services Logo After years in development, and supported by countless hours of research with a commitment to advanced and effective teaching, productive treatment and quality control methods, Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque, Iowa, announced recently that it is opening Awakenings Academy, a holistic residential treatment facility for behaviorally challenged or at-risk boys. The Academy, located on the Hillcrest campus in a renovated home, is open to boys from across the country, and is a private-pay and private insurance initiative of Hillcrest. The complete story is at "Awakenings Academy."
Conferences, camps, resources
Leadership Connection plans
face-to-face at General Assembly
Leadership Connection The Church Leadership Connection of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the call system of the denomination, will bring together call seekers and representatives of congregations and other calling organizations during the 222nd General Assembly this summer in Portland, Ore. Training will include vocational coaching, one-on-one PIF reviews, guidance on writing effective PIFs, PNC training, and a panel discussion with mid-council leaders. Additional Information is at "Leadership Connection."

Deadline still a few days away
to apply for Apollos Scholarships
Apollos Scholarships The Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation is accepting applications for Apollos Scholarships through April 1. Transcripts and reference questionnaires are accepted through April 15. The Apollos Program derives its name from the young man from Alexandria who was fervent in the scriptures and eloquent in proclaiming the gospel but who needed additional education. The Foundation provides scholarships to gifted students attending one of the 10 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seminaries. Details are at "Apollos."
Interfaith Laughter Night in Oshkosh
benefits community service organization
Willadsen book Have you ever wondered what happens when a priest a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar?  If you're in or near Oshkosh, Wis., you can find out April Fools' Day. Interfaith Laughter Night is scheduled Friday, April 1, at 7 p.m. at the New Moon Café, 401 N. Main Street, Oshkosh. Representatives of many different faith traditions will gather and tell jokes about themselves.  The event is a fundraiser for The Hub, a collaborative group of nonprofit organizations and government-funded agencies in Oshkosh that are committed to moving individuals from poverty to self-sufficiency. The complete story is at "Interfaith Laughter Night."
'Recovery from Religion' conference
planned in Twin Cities in April
Religion Recovery Religion plays a major role in the lives of millions. Sometimes this formation is positive, but far too often it can be rooted in theological systems that foster trauma or abuse. That's what promotional material for the conference, "Recovery from Religion," points out. The conference, sponsored by MICAH, the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing, runs April 6-9 at the Open Book in Minneapolis, and will address toxic theology, post-traumatic stress disorder and the road to healing. The conference is designed for healthcare professionals, clergy and anyone whose life has been touched by a negative religious message. Details are in a flyer at "Recovery from Religion."
Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light
sets conference on farming, faith
Farming Faith Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, a nonprofit organization supporting the faith community's response to climate change, is sponsoring a one-day conference Saturday, April 9, titled "Farming & Faith: Holistic Responses to Climate Change," in Lincoln. This conference will bring together people of faith from diverse backgrounds in Nebraska to consider the faith and farming connections. The keynote speaker will be Doug Dittman, owner of Branched Oak Farm near Lincoln, an organic farming operation. Dittman will speak about how his religious perspectives have informed his care of the land. Details, along with registration information, are at "Farming and Faith."
Registration open for summer
at Lakeshore Center, newsletter posted
Lakeshore Lodge Summer camp registration is open at the Lakeshore Center at Okoboji, a Presbyterian camp and conference center near Milford, Iowa. Online registration is available at "Summer Camp Sessions." Lakeshore Center also has "the perfect event for you," according to its most recent newsletter - it's Spring Work Day, slated 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30. The newsletter notes, "[If you] don't live in the area, no problem. In exchange for your time and attention, we invite you to come the night before and stay for free in the lodge, with breakfast provided." The newsletter is at "Cross Talk."
Summer Pastors School runs
in early June at Hastings College
Summer Pastors School, a program of the Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation, runs June 5-11 at Hastings (Neb.) College. Speakers include Thomas G. Long, Bandy professor of preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta; James Ayers, renewal pastor at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kan., and professor at Fuller Seminary in Houston; Nancy Ramsay, professor of pastoral theology and pastoral care at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas; and Mark Sundby, executive director of North Central Ministry Development Center in New Brighton, Minn. Early bird registration runs through April 20. Details are at "Summer Pastors School."
Regarding ruling elders: Rethinking stewardship
Loyda P. Aja, a ruling elder and a former associate stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), wrote this month's edition of Regarding Ruling Elders, a resource from the Office of the General Assembly. She notes, "While growing up in the early '60s, I vividly remember the annual visit made by an elder, a deacon, and sometimes even the pastor. They came waving the pledge card and made a pretty convincing biblical case for my parents not only to make the annual pledge, but to pledge the tithe of 10 percent of their income. The visit was followed by the Annual Stewardship Banquet. ...  It ended on Stewardship Sunday when church members came to the communion table bringing their pledge cards and placing them in the designated baskets. This may have worked then, but it is no longer a viable strategy given the changing conditions in our congregations." Her complete column is at "Stewardship."
Conference planned on bi-vocational ministry
Grove Markwood Titled "Bi-Vocational Ministry in the 21st Century," a conference slated April 15-16 at Saint Simons Island in Georgia will offer information important to those serving or seeking to serve in a bi-vocational ministry context as well as others who work with ministers who serve in such contexts. The Rev. Dr. Robert Grove-Markwood, right, director of the BTS Center, mission successor to Bangor Theological Seminary, will be the keynote speaker. A complete brochure can be found at "Serving in the 21st Century."
Creation Justice Resources made available
for Earth Day celebration
Earth Day is celebrated April 22 each year and Presbyterian churches are encouraged to celebrate Earth Day Sunday near this date or to celebrate worship at some point with a theme of creation. Creation Justice Ministries (formerly the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program) produces Earth Day Sunday resources each year. The resources include sermon starters, prayers, Christian education suggestions, action tips and more. All the information can be found at "Earth Day."
Grace & Gratitude addresses grace for Holy Week
Grace Gratitude Writing in the Presbyterian Mission Agency's Grace & Gratitude newsletter, Chip Hardwick, director of the Office of Theology, Formation and Evangelism, writes of grace during Holy Week. He noted, "In only two weeks we'll be celebrating Good Friday, indeed the ultimate example of this grace in Jesus' taking our place on the cross. Then on Easter, we celebrate the unearned gift of eternal life! What wondrous love is this?" The complete newsletter, which includes several resources, is available at "Grace During Holy Week."
Presbyterians Today offers blog
to be 'safe, holy place for reflection, growth'
One Church Many Voice Presbyterians Today is now offering a blog as "a place that welcomes Presbyterians of all stripes to share their ideas and their passions -- all aimed at shining a light on the path to become better disciples of Jesus Christ." The blog is intended to be "a safe and holy place for reflection and growth." Plans note the blog will include writing, art, videos and podcasts, and some of the content will be bilingual. Noting its content, it states, "Much of it pushes the boundaries of what passes for conversation in the church and will, we hope, inspire us to dream bigger when it comes to the gospel." The new blog can be found at "One Church Many Voices."
News of the Board of Pensions
Board Bulletin, Board Connections
issues address experience apportionment
BOP Connections Logo Current editions of The Board Bulletin and Board Connections, both newsletters of The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are available online. The issues address an experience apportionment and the 2017 Benefits Plan. The BOP board of directors approved a 2 percent experience apportionment for the Pension Plan effective July 1.The Board Bulletin can be found at "Bulletin" and Board Connections is at "Connections."
Board of Pensions plans to launch
new portal for employers
Board of Pensions logo The board of directors for the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met recently to report on the financial status of the organization, discuss the 2017 benefits plan, and preview its new online portal for members and, for the first time, employers. The employer portal, scheduled for a July launch, will allow employers to configure benefits packages offered to employees, facilitate employee contribution calculations and provides flexibility for a variety of ministry contexts. No longer an "all or nothing" benefits plan, employers can select a variety of options for their employees. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Employers."
News around the PC(USA) & more
GA222 registration is open
GA 222 Registration is underway for the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), where some 3,000 Presbyterians and others will gather to conduct the business of the denomination, worship, and fellowship. Mid-council staff, theological institution staff, and observers can now go online to sign up for the biennial assembly set June 18-25 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Commissioners, advisory delegates, General Assembly agency staff and elected members, and other invited guests are receiving emails with special links to use for assembly registration. The complete announcement is at "Registration Underway."
PC-Biz is redesigned in time for GA222
PCBIZ The website that houses Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly business has gotten a facelift and tummy tuck. PC-Biz, home to assembly business going back to 2006, has a fresh look and an updated structure, improving navigation and accessibility for users. And, the makeover is just in time as commissioners, advisory delegates, and others prepare for the 222nd General Assembly set June 18-25 in Portland, Ore. The complete announcement can be found at "PC Biz."

PC(USA) leaders issue prayers
for victims of bomb blasts
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders, Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of General Assembly; Heath Rada, moderator of the 221st General Assembly; and Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency; issued a prayer for the victims of the March 22 bomb blasts in Brussels, Belgium. The prayer opens: "God of grace and peace, we pray for the city of Brussels and the people of Belgium. Help and heal the wounded, receive the dying into your embrace, and comfort those who mourn." The complete prayer is at "Belgium Prayer."
Advocacy group asks 'why wait?'
on fossil fuel divestment
fossil free pcusa In a rare moment of dissent at the February Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting, one group took exception with the Justice Committee's affirmation not to divest from fossil fuel companies. The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, part of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry and responsible for recommending action to the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), opted instead to recommend further engagement on climate change with all companies, including those in the energy sector. It's a recommendation, that Fossil Free PCUSA feels, kicks the can down the road and fails to meet the General Assembly mandate. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Fossil Fuels."
Flooding causes major problems
in south central U.S., PDA responds
PDA disaster assistance Recent heavy rains have caused big problems for parts of eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. As much as 20 inches fell during the storms causing creeks and rivers to spill over their banks and into homes, churches and businesses. "Because of the lowlands, there are entire towns built on stilts and people will leave on their boats so we're prepared for higher water, but not to the extent that this system has left," said Tom Tucker, treasurer for the Presbytery of South Louisiana. And Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is responding. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Flooding."
Interfaith group urges
Congress to end Cuban embargo
Cuba USA flags The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has joined with 23 faith communities in a letter calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to take action on legislation regarding Cuba that would normalize relations and usher in an era "when our peoples and our communities can engage with one another unhindered and with mutual understanding and benefit." "We have listened to the call of our partner faith communities in Cuba, with whom we have worked for many years on humanitarian issues, on disaster response, and in sister church relationships," the letter states. "Uniformly and consistently, they have told us that the embargo brings no benefits to the faith community in Cuba." The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Cuban Embargo."
Mission Agency completes
voluntary separation program
Mission agency Twenty-six of 46 eligible employees of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have taken voluntary separation packages as part of cost-savings measures instituted earlier this spring. The program, announced Jan. 7, was offered to PMA staff members at least 60 years of age with at least five years of continuous service at the PC(USA) at the end of 2015. The deadline for participation was Feb. 29. In an email to staff Feb. 26, De La Rosa said, "we gladly and gratefully honor the commitment of our colleagues who have served Christ's church faithfully and well," adding there are concerns in the organization about the loss of the institutional knowledge of these employees as well as how their integral work will be distributed among the remaining staff. The complete Presbyterian News Service announcement can be found at "Separation."

Noted Presbyterian author, Ann Weems, dies at 81
Ann Weems In life, Ann Barr Weems was always reaching for rainbows. And -- through the multihued palette of her prodigious poetry -- Weems gave the world an extraordinary vision of God's and the rainbow's promise. On March 17, the gifted and prolific "Presbyterian poet laureate" reached her own rainbow, dying to eternal life at the age of 81 due to complications from a brain tumor. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Ann Weems." (Photo Westminster John Knox Press)

Writers Guild set to honor
2 celebrated church writers
vanmarterHodges Two veteran church communicators have been named recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild. The Revs. Houston Hodges and Jerry Van Marter will be recognized for "distinguished service to the church through writing"" at the Guild's General Assembly luncheon June 23 in Portland, Ore. Van Marter served more than 26 years as reporter, editor and coordinator with the Presbyterian News Service before retired in 2014. Hodges has been a prolific writer, author and editor. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Lifetime Achievement."
Dana receives top Presbyterian Writers Guild award
McKibben Dana The Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana, a writer, pastor, conference leader, and highly sought-after speaker, has been named the recipient of the 2016 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild.  Dana, author of "Sabbath in the Suburbs," a Chalice Press bestseller for two years running, has a robust presence on social media, and has been commenting on life, ministry, theology and culture on her blog, The Blue Room, for more than 12 years. She will receive the prestigious award at the Presbyterian Writers Guild's General Assembly luncheon June 23 in Portland, Ore. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "David Steele Award."
Farrell writes of work
of Holy Spirit in Peruvian church
Farrell Hunter new Hunter Farrell, director of world mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, wrote recently in Mission Matters newsletter of a trip to New Jerusalem Presbyterian Church in the indigenous community of Santa Barbara in Huancavelica, the poorest of Peru's 25 regions. He wrote, "I had no idea a simple question could be so powerful. ... As we walked into the sanctuary on that bitterly cold night, Pastor David looked at me and whispered, 'Ora conmigo, hermano, que voy a hacer algo distinto.' (Pray with me, brother, because I'm going to do something different.") ... Later that night, as I walked away from the church into the clear Andean night, I reflected on how little I understood about the power of the Spirit of Life whom Pastor David seemed to be able to trust so naturally." Farrell's complete column is at "So Powerful." The complete Mission Matters newsletter is at "World Mission."
Just one more

Identical twins offer a 'prank' video on time travel

Your editor hates to admit it, but he enjoys watching "prank" videos on YouTube - some not so good, some crass, some even hoaxes. But  Improv Everywhere imagine the work that went into this one from Improv Everywhere. The promo notes, "For our latest mission, we staged an elaborate time travel prank on a New York City subway car with four sets of identical twins." Yes, identical twins. It goes on, "A man enters a subway car and announces he is raising money to complete his time machine. At the next stop ... " You can find the video at "Time Machine."