Diving into the river—Day 2,
Thursday, July 19 was the first full day of the Gathering with two plenary sessions, workshop and forum opportunities, hands-on activities and much more!
The plenary sessions explored water quality and scarcity issues. Programs and activities throughout the Gathering answered PW's passion for all things mission, justice, faith and community-oriented.
Small inconveniences, big impact
By Jessica Reid
Sometimes it takes a tiny blessing to ignite big changes in our lives.
For Cassandra Carmichael, that blessing was news of her pregnancy. Cassandra serves as the director for the National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice program. In her role, she is privy to key information about the toxins in our air, water and food. But, it wasn’t until she learned her daughter, Eliana, was on the way that she took action for herself.
“I knew about these issues all my life,” Cassandra said while speaking at the Thursday morning plenary on the subject of world water issues. “But my most drastic life style changes only happened the instant I thought outside myself and thought of my daughter.” Read more.
Deep river, living waters
By Yvonne Hileman
The pathos of the African American spiritual “Deep River” defines the theme for the second day of the Churchwide Gathering, Thursday, July 19. An excellent recording of the spiritual was accompanied by an interpretive dance in which the dancer, carrying an empty urn, made supplicatory gestures, as if seeking water to fill her urn. As the first plenary speaker noted (and the second and the third, too), for much of the world’s population, the water is deep but not accessible. There is, at times, too much water. There is, at the same time, too little.
After Cassandra Carmichael spoke about personal choices for avoiding toxins, Kathy Angi, teaching elder and former mission coworker in Hungary, spoke of solutions. She began by saying, “God has created a good creation. In this creation, water is cleaned through a natural cycle, trickling through sand and soil, which remove debris, to rock and bacteria that remove contaminants, to springs, lakes and rivers.” She went on to talk about what has happened in the area of eastern Europe where she worked as a mission coworker. Read more.
Snapshots of God's love
By Carol Gruber
At the Thursday morning plenary, Nancy Benson-Nicol, the author of the 2012–2013 Horizons Bible study, Dispatches to God’s Household: The General Epistles, gave us a helpful metaphor. She likened the general epistles (1 and 2 Peter, 1–3 John and Jude) in the New Testament to a mother taking pictures of her son, Craig.
During her son’s formative years, the mother took snapshots of the two of them with one of her arms always draped around Craig’s shoulder. She held the camera with her other hand and “click,” recorded another milestone in his life. In some photos his face beamed or was close to tears, in others his face was serene. Read more.
Three wise men give thanks to Presbyterian Women
By Jessica Reid
“Hello, Presbyterian Women! I want to say ‘thank you’ for all my Bible teachers over the last 33 years!”
Those words from Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons were met with a round of laughter during the evening plenary on Thursday, July 19. Gradye spoke fondly of and to PW, recounting a story of a Presbyterian woman correcting him on the virtues of both Martha and Mary, and praising the passion of all in PW. “On behalf of all the ministers you tried to teach things to, thank you,” he said.
Gradye was joined on stage by Roger Dermody, who serves as deputy executive director of mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (formerly known as the General Assembly Mission Council, or GAMC), and also Neal Presa, the newly-elected moderator of the 220th General Assembly. Read more.
Education is hope
By Yvonne Hileman
On Thursday evening, a packed house in plenary heard Horizons Bible study authors Janice Catron and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty praise the commitment to lifelong learning that Presbyterian Women have. Perhaps nothing exemplifies this commitment better than Presbyterian Women’s Horizons Bible studies. Presbyterian Women love their Bible studies―and they love their Bible study authors.
Janice said, “We truly believe there is a lot to learn from study together. In Bible study, we learn about God’s plan and God’s actions. We learn about ourselves and what is important. We learn that God cares about us,” she added. “That is a source of immeasurable hope,” she said, eyes gleaming. Read more.
Does the river of hope flow in South Sudan?
By Yvonne Hileman
Debbie Braaksma, area coordinator for Africa for the PC(USA), cited Thursday evening’s scripture, Ezekiel 47:1–10: “There was a river too deep for me to wade. The water was so deep that it could be crossed only by swimming. . . .”
Then she said, “In my five years as a mission coworker in South Sudan, there were times I asked, does the river flow through South Sudan?” She added what she saw was suffering―suffering from the devastating effects of a 22–year civil war. More than two and a half million died in the war. She said the people still suffer, even as they celebrate their independence.
Debbie told plenary attendees that 48 percent of the children of South Sudan are malnourished. She said 80 percent of Presbyterian female leaders whom she surveyed in one village believe women must bear suffering without complaint, and that 70 percent of them believe men have the right to beat women. Only 15 percent believe they have the right to choose their husband. Read more.