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For nearly 15 years, a certificate has hung on a sparsely occupied bulletin board on the back wall in the sanctuary of Laguna United Presbyterian Church in Casa Blanca, New Mexico. For the only Native American congregation in Santa Fe Presbytery, this now-faded certificate represented much more than a tradition or achievement. Every time they walked by it, it was a reminder of their congregation’s commitment to participate in the life of the church — a church that spans beyond their Casa Blanca community.
As I write, there are reports of yet another school shooting. The refrain “I never thought this would happen here” has become a mantra on the evening news. The circle of those experiencing trauma — or knowing someone who has — widens daily.
I never thought of myself as a crafty person. The small motor skills required for sewing or crocheting make my brow knit in frustration. Coloring books meant to lower blood pressure increase mine. But I confess that there have been weeks where I’ve been crafting some sort of visual aid to go with the sermon I’m preparing.
Twelve children were huddled around a long table. Though they were only 7 to 13 years old, they would ordinarily be on the street, begging or selling merchandise for their families. They would not be in school if it were not for the School on Wheels (SOW) program of the Little Children of the Philippines. The children live in difficult circumstances, and because school was not a priority set by their families, they are behind in their education. By offering them nonformal education three hours daily for 10 months, SOW allows them to catch up on their lessons so they can re-enter public school.
The Rev. Lorenzo Small admits he had never heard of prayer walking until a pastor friend told him about it. So, he tried it. The prayer walk made such an impact on Small for being “very simple and yet very effective” that wherever the pastor goes, prayer walking goes with him.
My mother has a fascination with cemeteries and the stories the ancient gravestones tell. I, however, am captivated by abandoned barns.
My grandmother was a farm wife during the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. For the rest of her life, she was meticulous about not wasting food. She wouldn’t use a vegetable peeler on potatoes or carrots because she could remove less peel using a knife.
In 2012, by action of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the movement to establish 1001 new communities of faith all over the country was made official.
The Rev. Sharyl Dixon is now in her sixth year serving Kingston Presbyterian Church in Kingston, New Jersey. When she started serving the church — be it visiting the women’s Bible studies or shaking hands at the door after a service — Dixon realized that what she was witnessing, in different forms, was caregiving. For some in her congregation, it was caring for a spouse with dementia. For others, it was caring for ailing parents. For still others, it was caring for children with special needs. Dixon realized there was a need to care for those offering care to others. She began to wonder what might be done.
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” American composer George Gershwin clearly wasn’t thinking about life in the church when he wrote his 1930s song “Summertime.” For many congregations, summertime isn’t easy. Blue skies beckon people to mow, garden or hike rather than sit in a pew on a Sunday morning. Weekend getaways and family vacations also mean fewer volunteers available to provide child care, sing in choirs and host coffee hours.