Matthew 25

‘Petra’s Pier Picnic’ tackles world hunger

In her latest book, “Petra’s Pier Picnic,” author Phyllis Vos Wezeman introduces readers to a 9-year-old girl who is excited to go fishing with her father to celebrate her birthday. The crowded pier provides Petra a chance to use her new fishing pole. Her interactions also open her eyes and her heart to the needs of hungry people in the world. The book, for readers ages 10 and under, is illustrated by Chicago artist Oscar Joyo, who is originally from Malawi.

Presbyterians’ presence felt in famine-stricken countries

It’s considered the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet today. In 2018, the United Nations estimated that 14 million people in Yemen were on the brink of starvation. UNICEF estimates that 1.8 million Yemeni children suffer from acute malnutrition.  Thirty thousand die each year. Earlier this year, the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) responded to the crisis with funding geared toward providing long-term solutions to hunger and poverty in the mostly Islamic nation. PC(USA)’s Special Offerings ministry asked Presbyterians to help Yemen and three more famine-stricken countries, and they’ve answered the call by donating more than $150,000 to date. 

Eyes on Christ

I wouldn’t mind if church membership dwindled to 12 people, if those 12 were on fire for serving Christ, kept their eyes on Christ — and were able to pay the pastor’s salary.

Hospitality is ‘the sweet spot’ for Charlotte new worshiping community

LOUISVILLE — Traci Canterbury has found a spiritual home and a willing and able partner in The Fellowship Place in Charlotte, N.C. The Fellowship Place is one of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities and recently accepted the Matthew 25 invitation. For 15 years, Canterbury has managed the Southern Comfort Inn, an extended-stay residence for about 300 people, including 80 children. Residents are low-income or are on a fixed income. “They have been doing a lot of work here for the past few years, but this year they have stepped it up. They’re such a blessing to the residents here,” Canterbury said of The Fellowship Place, which has about 70 members. “They are the most generous church I have seen. They are so loving that you feel right at home.” The Fellowship Place is in fact so welcoming, she said, that she started worshiping there in April. “There’s a reason we have that name,” said Patricia Franks, clerk of session at The Fellowship Place. The ministry’s logo features a lower-case “t” and “p” but a capital “f.” “That’s intentional,” she said. “It’s the fellowship and the hospitality. That’s what people always say about us.” The Fellowship Place was a ministry placed in Charlotte’s West Corridor. But it had to move when the building it was renting was no longer available, Franks said. Now The Fellowship Place nests in another church in what Franks called “a more affluent section” of the community, but “we come back to the west side again and again for mission work.” The partnership began four years ago when members of The Fellowship Place delivered Thanksgiving meals to Southern Comfort Inn residents. That’s grown to include drives to collect food and personal care items and help navigating the school system as well as guidance with resume preparation and help styling the hair of Southern Comfort Inn’s younger residents. That final outreach is one of the most popular services offered. “It’s things we don’t even think about,” Franks said, adding that church members partner with stylists to offer residents haircare services. “A hairdo is way down on people’s list.” Soon church members plan on putting on a Bible study at the Southern Comfort Inn. “We are big on not imposing what we think people need,” Franks said. “We’ve learned we have to ask people what their needs are.” Services that came out of that ask-first approach include resume writing and help navigating the local school system for people experiencing homelessness. The Fellowship Place is also scouting out a van to purchase to transport residents who want to worship over to the church. The Bible study will be on “a subject of interest” to residents, Franks predicted. “Where they take you, you have to go,” she said. “I imagine they will say, ‘You know, Lord, I worked hard. I had a little bad luck and look where it has landed me. Why me, God?” Outreach efforts made to residents of the Southern Comfort Inn come about “because we are built that way,” says The Fellowship Place pastor the Rev. Dr. Michael Robinson. “It’s mandated by Jesus Christ, and doing mission beyond the walls of the church excites people,” he said. “It brings together the church and the community, and it introduces people to something they couldn’t do without Jesus Christ.” “We go out of our way to welcome strangers,” he added. “People come here and tell us they can’t believe the hospitality, from the parking lot to the pew. We sow the love of Christ no matter who you are or what you’ve done. We have found the sweet spot (at the Southern Comfort Inn) because we are all the Lord’s children. We embrace that.”

Leaders of color mentoring event concludes with renewed commitment to relationships

On a day that began with a snowstorm and ended with sunny skies, the 18 pastors gathered at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center on Lake Tahoe for the Mentoring Event for Leaders of Color in Pastoral Ministry found inspiration in training and continued relationship building during Tuesday’s sessions.

‘The starter car was already going around the track’

Synod of Lakes and Prairies is home to 16 presbyteries and nearly 800 churches, all of them in the upper Midwest. One of its presbyteries, Dakota Presbytery, is considered non-geographical but is the oldest presbytery west of the Mississippi River.

Drawing nearer to justice

While Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) churches and mid councils do the work suggested in Matthew 25, they might consider taking a cue from Isaiah 58 as well.