September 24, 2023
Rola Al Ashkar is a Presbyterian Christian from Lebanon. She grew up in a nonreligious family, in a culture drenched in religion. Her parents took her and her brothers to church and Sunday school on occasions. When she had her confirmation class, she received her first Bible, and even as a teenager, she read the Bible with critical eyes, questioning parts of it and searching for answers. Her curiosity led her to regularly attend Sunday services, youth meetings and church summer camps, and through those experiences her faith grew, and she found a community in the Presbyterian Synod of Syria and Lebanon.
Rola continued to search for more depth and to struggle with her commitment to her reformed faith, as she experienced religious discrimination in a culture where Presbyterians were a minority in a minority. At age 17, she decided to study theology and serve the church, though being a female minister wasn’t heard of at the time. Due to family opposition and cultural restraints, she could not join seminary until seven years later.
In 2011, she finally joined the Near East School of Theology in Beirut and was a part-time student for four years. Afterward, she transferred to Princeton Theological Seminary, where she graduated in 2016.
Even after her graduation, there were still no precedents to women ordinations in the Middle East, and Rola almost gave up her dream to become a pastor. This is when she decided to travel to the U.S., where she started serving Parkview Presbyterian Church in 2018, an intercultural PC(USA) church in Sacramento, California. Rola found a loving and supporting community in the Presbytery of Sacramento, where she was ordained in April 2021.
Now, Rola serves Westminster Presbyterian Church in Sacramento as ministry assistant for Outreach and Christian Education and is the organizer of the Iama Yoga New Worshiping Community.
The Rev. Magdy B. Girgis, D. Min., Middle Eastern Ministries, PC(USA)
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, September 24, 2023, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Gifts of New Immigrants
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Deidra May, Mission Specialist, Special Offerings, Ministry Engagement & Support, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Anne Marie Mazzone, Director, Financial Operations, Finance, Board of Pensions
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, today you call us to welcome the members of God’s family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds.
Help us by your grace,
To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring. We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer.