Category Archives: PC(USA)

Four PDA spiritual care providers now serving in fire, shooting affected California

Originally published on the Presbyterian Mission site here.

More help will materialize once deadly fires are out

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

A firefighter sprays water as part of efforts to put out fire in Southern California. (Courtesy of Los Angeles County)

LOUISVILLE – While the deadliest fires ever to strike California continue to burn, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has deployed four National Response Team members to Southern California, where residents are enduring both a mass shooting and the Woolsey and Hill fires.

They’re serving as Disaster Spiritual Care Providers, working in American Red Cross shelters in Pacific Palisades and the San Fernando Valley. In the wake of the Camp Fire, PDA has approved an initial $7,500 grant to the Presbytery of Sacramento; grant requests are also anticipated from Santa Barbara and Pacific presbyteries, said Jim Kirk, associate for PDA’s National Disaster Response.

Together with the Rev. Jim Kitchens, transitional executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Sacramento, Kirk worshiped Sunday at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, Calif., a half-hour west of the nearly destroyed community of Paradise, Calif.

“Chico didn’t lose any property, but a number of members who lived in Paradise lost their homes,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens is perhaps uniquely qualified to help fire-affected people of faith: He’s been pastor at two separate churches that suffered fires.

“I deeply understand the kind of trauma that living through a fire brings to a congregation,” he said Tuesday. “There is some pastoral sensitivity I try to take with me, knowing what old traumas can trigger in people. Clearly this was a church in shock.”

“The Camp Fire is truly historic,” PDA’s Kirk said. “Everybody is going to know somebody” impacted by the fire, which had as of Tuesday killed 42 people and led to 53,000 people being evacuated, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With fires still raging in both Northern and Southern California, it’s unsafe for PDA personnel to travel currently in the impacted areas. “We are early responders, but not first responders,” Kirk said. “Our goal is to stay out of the way. Once it is safe and appropriate, PDA can come in to work with presbyteries and congregations to develop response plans.”

In the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, fires ignited Nov. 8, a day after a gunman killed 12 people in a country music bar in nearby Thousand Oaks. “The fires are a way of life, unfortunately, but shooting is not,” said Sandy Thoits, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Santa Barbara. “People who are grieving had to be evacuated.” To date, 84,000 people have been evacuated because of the Woolsey Fire, which as of Tuesday was responsible for two deaths and three injuries, according to FEMA.

PDA expects to approve a grant in support of people affected by the violence.

The Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, a pastor at large in the Presbytery of Santa Barbara and the executive director of the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth, is working with people hurt by tragedies of both fire and violence.

“The shootings and the fire occurred within 24 hours. For those folks, they are very entwined, so you can’t separate it out,” Wiebe said. “People are overwhelmed and distraught. They’re experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions.”

Mass shootings “bring out issues of blame and anger in a way that natural disasters don’t always do,” she said.

Like firefighters who are increasingly called upon year-round to battle fires in the wildland urban interface, second responders like Wiebe are seeing less and less down time.

“In terms of groups being stretched thin, many disaster response groups find it difficult to find mental health and spiritual care providers,” she said. “They are needed in so many places right now.”

Indeed, Kirk said, presbytery staff in parts of fire-affected California “say that they are starting to have conversations about this may be the new normal” because of factors including climate change and drought. “This is raising a lot of concern for people who have to live in areas where fire is possible.”

“I hope the denomination will be prayerful and generous,” Kirk said, “in their support of our Presbyterian family who are still in harm’s way.”

To donate, visit To give by phone, call 800-872-3283. To send a check, designate where you want your gift to go on the memo line and mail to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be part of #GivingTuesday

By Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service

Originally published on the Presbyterian Mission site here.

LOUISVILLE — On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will once again participate in a celebration of giving that is observed around the globe.

#GivingTuesday, which this year falls on Nov. 27, is described by its organizers as “a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.”  Following the widely recognized shopping events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday presents an opportunity to kick off the giving season by inspiring people to collaborate and give back.

Within the PC(USA), opportunities to make a #GivingTuesday gift will range from the national level to congregations. A Presbyterian #GivingTuesday webpage offers several giving options for Presbyterian Mission Agency ministries and other PC(USA) causes. The PMA giving opportunities include the “greatest need,” Compassion Peace & Justice, Public Witness and Advocacy, World Mission, Young Adult Volunteers, the Christmas Joy Offering, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

In addition, the webpage also invites gifts for Presbyterian Women, the Presbyterian Foundation, the Presbyterian Historical Society and Hands and Feet, a ministry of the Office of the General Assembly. For congregations interested in receiving #GivingTuesday gifts, the Presbyterian Foundation has developed resources to help them participate.

#GivingTuesday was founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y, a community and cultural center in New York City. #GivingTuesday encompasses a broad range of organizations, including many faith-based groups, and last year the movement reached into more than 150 countries.  The PC(USA) began participating in #GivingTuesday four years ago.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, said #GivingTuesday offers Presbyterians an opportunity to reset their focus after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and give from the spirit of gratitude that was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day.

“#Giving Tuesday also comes just days before the beginning of Advent, the season when we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, the greatest gift of all,” Moffett said.

“Your gift to Presbyterian Mission will make a difference in our efforts to be a church of action,” she said. “Your generosity is one important way you can help our church be love with skin on it.”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

Disaster Assistance for Communities impacted by Hurricanes and Typhoons

Do not fear, for I am with you

Do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.(Isaiah 41:10)

Hurricane Florence and Typhoon MangkhutPresbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is offering immediate aid to the communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. This joins responses already underway for those impacted by Hurricane Florence, Typhoon Mangkhut, and other international disasters that have suffered a lack of media coverage.

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle with devastating winds and storm surge, causing loss of life. The storm then cut a path across the southeast, moving through the same areas impacted by Hurricane Florence just a few weeks ago.

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries. Emergency aid, assistance in the development of a short-term response plan, as well as a ministry of presence will be the priorities of the initial response.

Meanwhile, areas impacted by Mangkhut and Florence have received aid and support through the gifts of Presbyterians like you. In humility, with God and your continued support, we will continue to help draw hope out of the chaos, together.

Will you stand in the “GAP” (Give/Act/Pray) to help the survivors of these terrible storms?

GIVE: Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut have caused extensive damage and loss of life. Some of you have already given generously in previous weeks. While the needs can feel overwhelming, continued prayer and giving will ensure that the whole church is able to respond. Gifts to DR000194 support our response to hurricanes and typhoons. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

  • Download and use the bulletin insert.
  • Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources, and share updates with your congregation.

PRAY:As this hurricane and typhoon season continues to cause destruction and loss of life, please pray with us that the communities affected by these events and those offering assistance will be strengthened, have their needs met and be reminded of the hope found in God.

Support the emergency response and recovery from Hurricane Florence

God is our refuge and strength
Therefore, we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. —Psalm 46

The path of Hurricane Florence.Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) urges your support for those affected by Hurricane Florence. PDA is delivering immediate aid to those impacted by the storm on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Initial assessment suggests catastrophic destruction, but the full scope of the damage will not be known for many months.

The storm’s path is cutting across areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew (2016). While these winds and waters have meant loss and destruction, the work of PDA might become, as the psalmist says, “a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries to meet with Presbyterian and community leadership to assist in coordinating relief efforts and mucking out homes and churches. After initial needs are addressed, PDA will remain — providing spiritual and emotional care and long-term recovery to address the unmet needs of those impacted. Through your prayerful gifts, we draw hope out of the chaos.

The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP” — Give. Act. Pray.

Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000169, which supports the church’s response to hurricanes impacting the U.S. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Act: Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources and share updates with your congregation.

Pray: God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance, in the aftermath of storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come.

We are thankful for the grace of days of preparation as Hurricane Florence approached; for the counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way and lessened the effects of wind and water on others.

At the same time, we open ourselves to the stories of those for whom this storm was not a near miss: communities deeply affected, some still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed. We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost homes or livelihood.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs emerging in the wake of the storm.

In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams make glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ the Healer we pray. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus, director
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico continue long road to recovery one year after hurricanes

Rebuilding process is slow, but resilience is strong

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — It’s been a year since a trio of hurricanes wreaked havoc on Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving a path of destruction, major power outages and many people without homes. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in quick succession, pummeled their targets over several days late last summer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross and other disaster recovery organizations, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), have made strides in the past 12 months, but much work remains.

Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath as seen in Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo by Rick Jones)

In Texas, work continues to repair homes and businesses damaged by Harvey’s wrath. Last fall, a PDA delegation visited presbyteries and churches impacted by the storm, including the First Presbyterian Church in Dickinson.

Harvey left several feet of water in the church and parked an ice chest and boat at the church door. While the cleanup has been long and difficult, Pastor Kathy Sebring says it’s also been a blessing.

“We’ve had challenges and still do, but it’s actually presented an opportunity of rebirth for us,” said Sebring. “Before Harvey hit, we were a very small congregation and had no new members. Harvey came and washed all of that away.”

For the first two Sundays after Harvey, the congregation worshipped outdoors and, according to Sebring, it drew people in who were looking for help and a church.

Sebring says a church in West Virginia provided money for new chairs and donated a baby grand piano. Another church provided hymnals and Bibles.

“We’ve had six new members since April and one adult baptism. Prior to the hurricane, we hadn’t seen anyone join the church in over five years and there hadn’t been a baptism in 10 years,” she said. “Members were resistant to reaching out, thinking they weren’t big or strong enough. Now it’s not even in their vocabulary. God gives us the wherewithal to do it. This congregation is so on fire. The hurricane was a terrible thing but probably the biggest blessing that God could have given to us.”

Workers unload food and other supplies at Mision Peniel in Immokalee, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Mision Peniel)

Florida continues the recovery, not only from Irma but from previous hurricanes.

“It’s been slow. Around the state, we have several long-term recovery groups that have formed in the wake of Irma,” said Kathy Broyard with Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network (FLAPDAN.) “Volunteers are coming, but not as many as we would like. The number of workers in Florida is down as many headed to Texas and Puerto Rico after Harvey and Maria. We’re not complaining. Things are moving.”

Broyard says there are many homes still covered in blue tarps and recovery groups are working to keep things dry until volunteers can arrive to help make repairs.

“There are a few churches that are planning mission trips here,” she said. “In Monroe County, in the Keys, they are moving ahead quickly to provide volunteer housing. We’re trying to get the word out that we still need help here. Folks who have been impacted are fearful of the next storm that comes through.”

Damage from Hurricane Maria can still be seen some 60 days later along the western coast of Puerto Rico in the town of Mayaguez. (Photo by Rick Jones)

In Puerto Rico, most power has been restored across the island, but there are still areas where power doesn’t last long. From the sky, blue tarps can be seen dotted across the communities, still waiting for repairs. The government this week released new information on the death toll from Maria, saying nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm.

“From what we’ve seen and heard, a lot of people are tired. They feel that they haven’t had a lot of time to rest or to take care of themselves,” said the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, PDA consultant working on Puerto Rico’s recovery. “I still hear about people needing beds, refrigerators and basic necessities. Power is going out almost weekly in different areas which impacts stoves, microwaves or refrigerators.”

González-Castillo says it puts a lot of pressure on the churches. Many pastors, who are part time and holding down other jobs, find themselves working around the clock to meet the needs of their members.

Families are still living in rough conditions and are concerned about when the next storm will hit.

“I’ve talked with one family that got new beds, but their roof still leaks. When it rains, their beds get damaged, and they must be replaced again,” said González-Castillo. “There’s that moment where you can’t handle it anymore and it’s created a desperate situation for families, the economy, government, and schools.”

To make matters worse, González-Castillo says trailers loaded with spoiled food and supplies have been found that were never delivered. Hundreds of bodies have never been claimed either because families have left the island or can’t afford to bury them.

Despite the slow recovery, González-Castillo says Presbyterian churches are stronger and more organized to meet the needs of their congregations. Volunteer groups continue to come in and assist with home repairs. Next month, PDA will send another delegation to the region to visit with churches and discuss future support efforts.

“PDA has been working in partnership with our Presbyterian sisters and brothers in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the initial response and now in the long-term recovery,” says Jim Kirk, associate for disaster response in the U.S. “As a result of the generosity of our denomination, PDA will be able to support the ongoing recovery. It is hoped that through additional gifts that support can last even longer.”


Click here to read PDA’s response to the hurricanes over the last year.

To support hurricane recovery efforts, click here. You’ll be taken to the PC(USA) website to donate securely and quickly.

If you prefer to mail a check (please write “DR000194” on the memo line), you may send it to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

You may also call 800-872-3283 Monday Through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), and donate by phone.

You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

General Assembly News from PC(USA)

For news from the 223rd General Assembly taking place in St. Louis
from June 16–23, please click on the link below:

General Assembly News

How decisions get made at General Assembly

By Jerry Van Marter | Presbyterians Today

This summer’s 223rd General Assembly will be my 41st. My first was in Portland, Oregon, in 1967 when, as a college student and cradle Presbyterian, I wanted to see firsthand the debate on the Confession of 1967. Since then, I have missed very few General Assemblies. Yes, I am a “GA junkie.”

But why am I a GA junkie? The Book of Order, G-3.0501, speaks for me: “The General Assembly constitutes the bond of union, community and mission among all its congregations and councils, to the end that the whole church becomes a community of faith, hope, love and witness.” That section continues: “As it leads and guides the witness of the whole church, it shall keep before it the marks of the Church (F-1.0302) … and the six Great Ends of the Church (F-1.0304).” Read More …

Presbyterians begin 260-mile walk to the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis

Group calls for church divestment from fossil fuels

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – With gray and overcast skies above them, a group of 25 to 30 people gathered at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville on Friday morning to begin a two-week trek to St. Louis on foot. The PC(USA) Walk for a Fossil Free World is a joint project of both the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Fossil Free PCUSA to stand against investment in the fossil fuel industry. Read More…


Many more articles for the upcoming General Assembly (June 16-23, 2018) can be found on the PC(USA) News site.


News Subscription for GA 223 in June

GA News Subscription for
GA 223 June 16-23, 2018 in St. Louis

Attention Pastors and Congregational Leaders!

What’s happening at General Assembly this year? When GA 223 meets in St. Louis June 16-23, the General Assembly Newsroom will publish the GA Newspaper every day. A team of crackerjack reporters will fan out through the committees and events, to bring all the news right to your inbox. Subscription is easy and FREE!

As congregational leaders, you are the “front line” responders to help your people understand what the Assembly ACTUALLY did, and the whole scope of news. What we hear repeatedly is that pastors who can’t be at the Assembly are frequently asked questions about GA that they are not prepared to answer – by subscribing to the daily paper, they will be well-equipped to respond when parishioners (and others) ask.

Here’s the deal: click on the link below. It will take you to the sign-up page to receive the GA NEWS delivered free to your inbox each morning of the Assembly. What you will receive is a pdf of the actual newspaper printed each day at the Assembly.

For any questions, be in touch with Jerry Van Marter, General Assembly Newsroom director:

Erin Cox-Holmes
President, Association of Mid-Council Leaders