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“Seems like changes come faster and faster all the time!” My grandmother, who was born in 1904, told me this one day, as she described her youth without cars and then astronauts on the moon six decades later. Some of the changes over her 97 years were unwelcome. She never did buy a microwave. Other changes, like the “www” in her morning newspaper ads, intrigued her.
Together with her husband, Dr. Gordon Govens, the Rev. Ruth-Aimée Belonni-Rosario Govens has led the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, Texas, for the past two years or so, helping to prepare 90 international students each year for lives of Christian leadership in the global community. PPAS is among the institutions supported by the Christmas Joy Offering.
Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors entered U.S. border custody in March, an all-time monthly record. The onslaught of lone minors overwhelmed the U.S. government’s infrastructure and intake process. The largest Border Patrol facility for migrant children was at 1,640% capacity in late March, holding more than 3,200 unaccompanied minors in a facility designed for 250 people.
Susan Ehterton, a real estate developer and ruling elder at Arlington Presbyterian Church in Arlington, Virginia with 35 years of experience in redevelopment and affordable housing, explained the church’s journey as moving “from one stone edifice to another stone edifice” — one with 173 units of affordable housing and, as it turns out, room for the congregation as well.
Our congregation has been worshiping virtually since last year. We had a few good months of outdoor worship, but colder weather meant back to virtual worship. And that meant reimagining one of our favorite Sundays of the new year: Ordination and Installation Sunday.
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 for 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 postlude played. I stood at the sanctuary door, greeting congregants as they made their way to coffee hour. On this day, though, I wasn’t sharing pleasantries as I shook hands. I was anointing with oil a hand of each person exiting the sanctuary. As I made the sign of a cross on each palm, I gave a blessing: Be the beautiful you God sees you to be.
You may not see them, but they pick the crops, sweep the floors, care for the children and elderly, build infrastructure, labor in factories, cook, and serve. They often have to leave their home countries and families to find a job. They send much of their earnings back home to their families.
When Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer earned her Doctor of Ministry degree in parish revitalization, she had no idea that church transformation would become her calling.
And not only her calling, but also a blessing to the people of Homewood, Illinois.
What has become an annual ritual for many churches – the “Blessing of the Backpacks” – has taken on special importance at First Presbyterian Church in Findlay, Ohio. This year, the event was integrated into the larger concept of commemorating milestones within the life of the church and its members, with back to school being just one of them.