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During the pandemic, the Rev. Bethany Peerbolte was making phone calls to members of the youth group she led as a way of checking in while remaining socially distant. The youth started using terms like “lukewarm Christian,” which struck Peerbolte as “not very Presbyterian,” so she started searching online for their source.
In the midst of the Covid pandemic, when the efficacy of new vaccines was still unknown and many churches were not back to worshiping inside, the Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson, executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, issued an invitation for congregations to join the Vital Congregations Initiative (VCI). The Rev. Katie Day, having accepted her call to Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, during the pandemic, remembers that her congregation was still worshiping in a parking lot and conducting meetings on Zoom.
The national staff of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently heard a sermon by one of the church’s most committed and innovative practitioners of the Matthew 25 movement, the Rev. Heidi Worthen Gamble.
The Damayan Migrant Workers Association Baklas project is an organized effort to rescue Filipina women from labor trafficking and involuntary servitude. The Damayan group consists of about 800 Filipina women. They experienced labor trafficking upon immigrating to the U.S. and they wanted to help themselves and other women like them. The organization was founded in 2002 and has grown since then. The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People awarded Damayan $85,000 for three years in 2002. In 2003, Damayan (a Filipino word that means “helping each other”) became a grassroots nonprofit organization.
Together with the Rev. Dr. Ellen Davis, her colleague at the Duke Divinity School, the Rev. Dr. Jerusha Matsen Neal, who teaches homiletics there, has been teaching a class that requires students to preach a sermon on the climate crisis to any congregation in North Carolina. “My congregation is too politicized, too distrustful, too poor or too rich, too white or too Black, too rural or scientifically illiterate. They’re theologically conservative or progressively smug. They’re lectionary bound or they’re despairing or they’re afraid,” the students tell their professors early on in class.
The Rev. Roland Gordon, whose length of service as the pastor of Ingleside Presbyterian Church in San Francisco is exceeded only by the care and inspiration he has provided to the youth of the neighborhood in which the church does ministry, is one of five recipients of Jefferson Awards from the organization Multiplying Good, which seeks to cultivate greatness through service to others. Gordon recently accepted the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefitting Local Communities.
Leland Presbyterian Church in Mississippi recently welcomed four members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) National Response Team as part of a commissioning ceremony for the church’s recently established disaster recovery volunteer host site as well as for the site’s coordinator.
“People are looking for meaning in their lives,” said Nathan Heimer, who with his wife, Mindy, have found more success opening up deep conversations on a paddleboard, in a yoga class or in a coffee shop instead of a traditional church. That’s why the Heimers started a paddleboard ministry named A Stoked Life in Colorado rather than waiting for people who have grown up in secular households or who have been hurt by the church to walk through a sanctuary door looking for a good sermon. They see themselves as a bridge between nature-lovers and communities that seek to be God’s love in the world.
Pyoca Camp and Retreat Center, located in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, recently announced that it had received a $451,505 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to launch an innovative day camp program for local youth. The program is funded through the Strengthening Youth Programs in Indiana initiative, which is aimed at improving the academic, physical and social well-being of young people ages 5 through 18.
A recent Matthew 25 workshop on eradicating systemic poverty focused viewers’ attention on the importance of being willing to dig in “for the long haul” to help address deeply rooted problems in international communities.