Category Archives: PC(USA)

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.”

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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.


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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.

https://ga-pcusa.org/#Anchor-EmailSignup

For any questions, be in touch with Jerry Van Marter, General Assembly Newsroom director: jerry.vanmarter@nullpcusa.org

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

PC(USA) News 5/23/2018

Closing churches due to size unthinkable in Cuba 
Jerry Van Marter | Office of the General Assembly
Small but vital mission thrives in country’s third largest city

Hawaii’s volcanic activity not slowing down
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Lava still flowing into Pacific Ocean, causing health concerns

Presbyterian churches remember victims in Texas school shootings
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is in contact with presbytery leaders

A worshiping community for the full scope of humanity
Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
Faith Point Fellowship is a place where people can critically engage Scripture and culture

Key to true mission partnership: be humble and really listen
Tracey King-Ortega | Mission Crossroads
Reflections from a mission co-worker in El Salvador

Lord of the dance
Jerry Van Marter & Randy Hobson | Office of the General Assembly
Presbyterian mission in poorest-of-the-poor barrio offers kids a chance to shine through the arts

Applications now being accepted for Native American Leadership Fund Awards
Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
2018 awards available. Apply by June 29.

Belize’s top agriculture official pays tribute to the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
SDOP wraps up visit to Central American country

Presbyterian Mission Agency publishes 2017 Annual Report
Presbyterian News Service
Report highlights achievements and hope

On the road to Cathy’s house
Jerry Van Marter | Office of the General Assembly
Home to the Presbyterian Mission at Marcane

Hispanic/Latinx National Presbyterian Caucus and stated clerk issue statement on Trump’s latest comments on immigrants
Office of the General Assembly
‘The PC(USA) stands with all our sisters and brothers who have immigrated to the U.S.’

Living Waters for the World Joins with Cimorelli to highlight global water crisis
Julie Samrick | Reprinted with permission from the Williamson Herald
Cuba trip inspires song ‘Thirst for Life’

Couple in Belize finds success and national recognition for farm work
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People visits Trio Farm Cooperative

Serving in ‘God’s vineyard’ in Niger and South Sudan
Jim McGill | Mission Crossroads Magazine
Ministries of water, sanitation and health join hands in partnership

‘Showing people God by our action’
Jerry Van Marter | Office of the General Assembly
Cuban Presbyterian mission grows by serving, not talking

Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People visits Marigold Women’s Cooperative
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Volunteers and staff see progress in grant-funded business

Synod of Presbyterian Church of Venezuela issues pastoral letter
Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
Church leaders address months of unrest and violence in Venezuela

Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People visits Seine Bight, Belize
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Group learns about community culture and hope for a better future

Malagasy Church calls for peace, dialogue amid growing political tension
Doug Tilton | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Madagascar election concerns prompt church action, government response

World Council of Churches calls for just peace and an end to impunity in the Holy Land
WCC Release
Ecumenical body condemns recent bloodshed, asks for international investigation

Stated Clerk files amicus brief supporting DACA

800,000 young people would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ if program ends

MARCH 26, 2018 – LOUISVILLE

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II has signed an amicus curiae brief in a suit filed in the Northern District of  California to enjoin the federal government from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The plaintiffs in the case are the University of California, the States of Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, the City of San Jose, CA, the County of Santa Clara, CA, the Service Employees International Union Local 521 and individual DACA recipients, Dulce Garcia, Miriam Gonzalez Avila, Saul Jiminez Suarez, Viridiana Chabolla Mendoza, Norma Ramirez and Jirayut Latthivongskorn.

The court granted them a temporary injunction which stopped the government from ending DACA, finding that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm if DACA should end, and that there was a public interest in keeping DACA. The court ordered the government to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis under the same conditions as were in effect before the Trump Administration rescinded DACA last fall.

Read the rest of the article on the PC(USA) news site.

Presbyterians join hundreds of thousands in march against gun violence

Office of Public Witness organizes denominational contingent in Washington

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Original Article Here

LOUISVILLE – Across the country and the world Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took part in rallies and demonstrations against gun violence. The March for Our Lives was organized by students in various communities.

Thousands participate in the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Photo by Nora Leccese

The main event was in Washington, D.C., led by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff were gunned down on Feb. 14. The crowd demanded that Congress enact stricter gun-control legislation to crack down on school shootings. As of Saturday, there have been 17 school shootings in the U.S. since the first of the year where someone was either hurt or killed, according to national law enforcement officials.

The Office of Public Witness participated in the D.C. march.

“It was fabulous and I think it was a watershed moment for building a movement on gun and community violence. I was impressed with how many young women of color participated and the powerful messages they brought,” said Nora Leccese, OPW’s associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues. “We were impressed that most of the speakers at the event were under the age of 18 and we believe that students will play a key role in making the changes that we need in this country.”

Presbyterians gather at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., prior to the March for Our Lives rally on Saturday. Photo by Nora Leccese

OPW coordinated a gathering of Presbyterian demonstrators on Saturday morning at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The group marched together from the church to the noon rally on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“We had between 300 to 400 people gather at the church prior to the march, coming from other states and communities. New York Avenue provided a great service to the community by opening its doors and hosting the people for rest and meeting space,” said Leccese. “It was very multigenerational, from tiny babies to older folks. We helped provide a wheelchair for an 88-year-old who was determined to march with us.”

Even though it was a solemn subject, Leccese says she felt a lot of energy, high spirits and determination at the march.“We had between 300 to 400 people gather at the church prior to the march, coming from other states and communities. New York Avenue provided a great service to the community by opening its doors and hosting the people for rest and meeting space,” said Leccese. “It was very multigenerational, from tiny babies to older folks. We helped provide a wheelchair for an 88-year-old who was determined to march with us.”

Organizers estimate that as many as 800 protests were planned across the U.S., including marches in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Rob Trawick, the former moderator of Hudson River Presbytery and a professor of ethics at St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York, participated in the Rockland County, New York, march with other Presbyterians. He said the attendance was significantly higher than expected. Organizers were planning for a few hundred and more than a thousand showed up.

Communities around the country participate in local marches, like this one in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Lauren Rogers

 

“The student speakers brought a lot of passion to the event and certainly seemed to have a directed energy,” he said. “They knew what they were standing for and I didn’t get the sense that they were being used by some larger group. This was grassroots and the concern that bubbled up came from students who were concerned for their safety.”

Trawick is the father of a teenage son and he takes school violence personally.

“This issue is important to me individually and theologically,” he said. “The idea that we would put some sort of private interest above the communal good strikes me as decidedly unreformed and I’m angry that I have to worry about whether my child comes home from school.”

Events were also scheduled in other parts of the world, including Liverpool, England, and hundreds of other cities.

Presbyterians take part in a similar march in New York City. Photo provided

Despite the large numbers and success of the weekend marches, Leccese says they will continue to monitor the actions of both state and federal lawmakers with no plans to ease up on the pressure.

“There are some poorly thought-out pieces of gun policy coming out of Congress that the administration is lifting up as the ultimate solution,” she said. “We want to make clear that these bread crumbs offered in the budget are not the kind of gun legislation we’re looking for. We will keep pushing these legislators, or the legislators we replace them with, to actually take meaningful action.”Despite the large numbers and success of the weekend marches, Leccese says they will continue to monitor the actions of both state and federal lawmakers with no plans to ease up on the pressure.