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Once upon a time, theological institutions were seen as stewards of self-sufficiency. Aside from a visiting professor now and then, tenured faculty formed the core of the identity and mission of most seminaries. Students sought out specific professors as mentors and advisers. Aside from denominational affiliation, a school’s internal prowess in missiology, homiletics, liturgy, music, pastoral counseling or evangelism was often the main draw for new students.
In 2012, the General Assembly made a bold commitment — to create an environment within the denomination that would lead to the flourishing of the existing church and the birth of at least 1001 new communities of worship and witness. The Presbyterian Mission Agency went to work creating a system of resources to support this call to equip presbyteries, help potential leaders discern God’s call, develop a system of grants, build leadership capacity and create a network of coaches prepared to accompany a new worshiping community through all the stages of development. Establishing partnerships and collaboration with other North American denominations, the reach of these resources extends far beyond the PC(USA).
As June turned to July, Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles needed a place to store food.
Its direct food service to people in need had skyrocketed from 120 households a week before the COVID-19 pandemic to more than 2,000 a week as the virus staged a resurgence in California that has resulted in it being the state with the most coronavirus infections in the country. Immanuel, in L.A.’s Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area, was running out of space to keep food – at one point jerry-rigging cooling ducts in a hallway to create improvised, temporary cold storage. Then church leaders cast their eyes on its Westminster Chapel.
In the early days of the pandemic, Joel Gill, the executive director of Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, gathered staff together for a brainstorming session.
As one of the newest regional liaisons hired to serve East Central Africa, I have been traveling a lot, and sometimes it feels as though I am living in and out of airports more than in my home in Lusaka, Zambia. You know what, though? I can’t complain! As I travel within the countries that I serve — Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia — I have the opportunity to see God’s amazing work through the hands, voices, eyes and feet of our international Presbyterian partners. Partners who are trying to repair the brokenness among God’s children. Partners who, in their own ways, are attempting to serve and provide for “the least of these” — through means like building and maintaining community schools and theological institutions; building health facilities and clinics; and ministering in hospitals, clinics and prisons.
On World Communion Sunday (Oct. 6), individual members of Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church (TTPC) in Florida lifted a loaf of bread from a country where they had lived and recited the words of institution in the language of that country — Arabic, German, Spanish, Greek, Tamil and others.
A few years back, the 130 or so members of First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon, Michigan, decided to turn their focus outward into their community about 40 miles west of Detroit.
The Reformed Calvinist Church of El Salvador (IRCES) is a unique church partner. Though small in number, it is big in vision and commitment to the gospel. Grounded in their Reformed identity, they are always making time to analyze and discern their call, based on the context in which they serve. From way south of the border, our partners are watching and anticipating the direct impact of U.S. immigration policy as
they turn to longtime U.S. mission partners and confidants to ask, “What are you going to do about this? How can we face this together?”
I could not understand what he was saying as he responded to the questions in Quechua, the local language of the high jungle. But judging by the reactions of the onlookers and of his wife, this older man, who was on his knees washing his wife’s feet although he was most likely the “man of the household,” was learning not only about hygiene, but about humility and love as well.
In our Reformed tradition, Presbyterians recognize that we are a part of a larger body of Christ. But that body doesn’t end at the walls of our church building, our city limits, state lines or national borders. That body encompasses each child of God around the world. Because we all have limitations and are all united in Christ, we believe we are called to mission in partnership because, after all, we are better together.