Category Archives: Presbytery

The PC(USA)’s Disability Concerns Consultants help people overcome barriers to full participation in church

Small, dedicated group draws gratitude for understanding inclusivity issues

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Original Article: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/the-pcusas-disability-concerns-consultants-help-people-overcome-barriers-to-full-participation-in-church/

Disability Concerns Consultant the Rev. Sue Montgomery speaks during a workshop at Big Tent. (Taylor Gash photo for Presbyterian News Service)

LOUISVILLE — If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)’s cadre of Disability Concerns Consultants had a motto, it might be “We are small but mighty.”

That’s how Hunter Steinitz, an elder at Riverview United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, describes the group, which consists of four consultants who each have a different specialty: people with mobility or accessibility issues, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people who are blind or have low vision.

Taking questions mostly by phone or email, the consultants help disabled people throughout the PC(USA) to feel welcome.

“The biggest thing I hear from people who call is that they are so grateful to have someone not only that is listening but someone who understands,” said the Rev. Sue Montgomery, who leads the consultancy team and serves as the mobility/accessibility consultant.

Steinitz interacts with the consultants as moderator of Presbyterians for Disability Concerns, a group that works for disability inclusion in ministries, communities and the PC(USA). She recently described the role of Disability Concerns Consultants this way:

“They are out there for congregations, for individuals, for people with disabilities (who are) looking to find faith communities that are inclusive and accessible,” she said. Consultants also “help anybody really looking to increase their inclusivity and their accessibility so that more people with varying abilities can be active and participate in the life of the church.”

The Rev. Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox (Contributed photo)

The Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) contracts with the Disability Concerns Consultants on a two-year cycle and recently hired hearing consultant Kathy McIndoe and the Rev. Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox, who’s the intellectual/developmental disabilities consultant. They join Montgomery and the Rev. Dr. Karen Moritz, the consultant for people who have low-vision or blindness.

“Working very closely with Sue to contract with her three Disability Consultant colleagues, I have become very aware of their importance to the Church’s ability to provide a safe, inclusive space for people living with disabilities,” said Lacey Hunter, a manager of Finance and Administration for PMA. “The lived experience, skill, and sensitivity they offer is crucial.”

Steinitz said she is “over the moon” that the consultancy team is up to full staff.

However, “I’m even more excited that most of our consultants are themselves people affected with the disability that is their subject matter expertise,” she said. “It’s so very important that people affected with the thing in question be the ones to provide the information because they live it every single day in a way that someone who just knows about it can’t quite match.”

The Rev. Dr. Karen Moritz (Contributed photo)

As a woman who’s been blind since birth, Moritz is sensitive to the issues that people with conditions that affect their vision face in church and community settings. “It’s kind of a thing close to my heart because I think the church still struggles to know how to include people with disabilities,” said Moritz, a former mission co-Worker and retired Nebraska pastor. “I know all of us want to be there to help make that process easier and less frightening for people.”

Examples of the questions and comments that come to the consultants include the following:

  • I have a gluten intolerance. How can I participate in Communion?
  • Help! I need curriculum help for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • Can you give me information about accessibility audits/checklists/surveys?
  • My presbytery meets in a church that’s not accessible. Don’t they get it?
  • How can our church begin a ministry with persons who are deaf?
  • What do I say to a child who asks, “Why me?”

Montgomery, an honorably retired pastor who has a birth defect that has limited the use of her legs, said the people they hear from often are “looking for answers to a situation they’re dealing with in their congregation.” They may be a parent with a child who has a disability, or they may be “a teacher in a confirmation class looking for curriculum that’s geared toward people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities.”

Consultants also hear from people who have financial questions such as “How do we receive grants?” she said.

In addition to having conversations with people who have such questions, the consultants and Presbyterians for Disability Concerns can provide people with various resources.

Hunter Steinitz (Photo by Annie O’Neill)

“We have a blog,” Steinitz said. “We also have a number of resources,” including Sunday school materials for multiple age groups, so “check out all of the things that we have to offer and if there is something that you think you need or want that you don’t see, let us know. We’re always developing new and better materials to help folks think about ways to better include people with all abilities.”

The overall effort “is about participating in worship in whatever way people are able and want to and it’s also about enabling individuals with disabilities to serve in leadership capacities,” said Steinitz, who has a rare condition called Harlequin ichthyosis that gives her skin a red appearance. “So, it is about being able to come through the door, but it’s also about preparing for them once they’re here.”

Fox, the founder of a new worshipping community called Beloved Everybody in Los Angeles, expresses the need for inclusivity this way: “Particularly in a tradition like ours, with such deep regard for theological scholarship and meaningful verbal liturgy, there can be folks in the Body of Christ whose leadership, gifts, and participation are left out, simply because they may not express themselves primarily through verbal language or abstract concepts,” she said. “I hope that in this role I can work alongside folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities, whenever possible, to broaden the imagination of some of our practices and create more ideological and practical space for the beautiful diversity of bodies and brains among all of us whom God has created.”

Fox added that she has been “so encouraged by … the faithful commitment that folks from all over the country have shown for making a way for everyone in their community to participate and thrive, even when things become complicated, or a situation arises that doesn’t have an easy answer.”

Montgomery, who lives in Pennsylvania, noted that it’s important for people who want to make their churches better for people with disabilities to take the time to seek input from them.

“Get to know the person,” she said. “Get to know the family. Get to know what” their ministry needs are, because “if you don’t, you can end up paying for an elevator that nobody can use or a ramp that can’t be used because it’s too steep.”

That’s where a consultant can be helpful, Moritz said. “I feel like my job is partly, especially with congregations, to allow them to have that conversation with me, and then hopefully get some tools about how they can have that conversation with people in their congregation.”

Moritz also can be helpful to those who need help beyond the church. As a former vocational rehabilitation counselor, “I have an awareness of some of the other services that are available outside the church,” she said. “… Sometimes, people just don’t know where to go to get the help that would improve their lives.”

For more information about Disability Concerns Consultants, go here. Additional information can be found here.


Taking the ‘plunge’ to improve basic sanitation and hygiene worldwide

Indiana youth group uses lighthearted approach to address serious health issue through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog

by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Communications | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Youth at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, have some good, clean fun playing plungerball. (Contributed photo)

ST. LOUIS — Although ballplayers have been swinging since ancient times — whether with bats, rackets, hands or clubs — recorded history is strangely silent about plungers.

Yes, plungers.

“Plungerball started about 20 years ago when I first started leading the youth group,” said Sunny Currier, youth leader at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Indiana, who was attending the 2024 APCE Annual Event, Jan. 24-27, in St. Louis with a group from the congregation. “It’s just like softball, but instead of a bat you use a plunger. It just became a thing in our youth group.”

But the mission-minded youth of the church are not all fun and games.

“They are interested in social justice,” said Stephanie Cunningham, who leads the youth group with Currier at the 400-member church in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley. “Whenever we have conversations about topical issues, I find them to be really engaged.”

And that’s where the Presbyterian Giving Catalog came in.

“We already knew about the Giving Catalog from the congregation,” said Jen Riddle, the church’s director of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “Our social justice committee was working with it.”

The Presbyterian Giving Catalog is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world.

The 2023–2024 edition offers a total of 43 items — large, small and in between ­— to fit every congregation’s missional interests and every individual’s budget. For ease of use, it is available both in print and online, in EnglishSpanish and Korean.

When committee members Mary Ann McCray and Vern Jorck approached the two youth leaders and Riddle with a proposal, they were ready and eager to answer not only God’s — but also nature’s — call.

“Mary Ann and Vern thought it would be a great idea for the children of the church to raise money for families of chickens,” recalled Currier. “When they asked us if we could get that going, I thought that our youth group could also do something. So, when I picked up the Giving Catalog and saw the latrine item, considering that our youth group’s favorite activity is plungerball, the decision was obvious.”

Youth ministry leaders at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, pose with Gracie the fish during last week’s APCE Annual Event. (Photo by Margaret Boone)

Currier said that reading the accompanying description in the Giving Catalog helped her to explain to the youth why latrines are important. According to a United Nations website, there are 3.5 billion people living without safe toilets.

The Giving Catalog explains that for women in particular, latrines promote dignity and safety, minimizing the risk of assault when they venture out alone in search of privacy.

“We explained to the youth that we have places to go to the bathroom, but not everybody does,” added Cunningham, who works for a domestic violence organization. “Even though it’s a heavy topic, you can pair it with something fun.”

And the teenagers — and youth leaders alike — had plenty of that.

The youth group kicked off their fundraising campaign in the late fall of 2023 with a table set up during coffee hour for the first two weeks of Advent and also as part of the church’s alternative giving fair.

Their creative displays gave a knowing nod and a wink to the latrine project by giving away Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate emoji-themed cupcakes and lemonade.

Currier had also found a broken chair in the recycling bin, which she outfitted with a toilet seat and mixing bowl to further raise awareness.

Youth at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana, encouraged gifts to the Presbyterian Giving Catalog with this creative display. (Photo by Sunny Currier)

For the children’s chicken project, Riddle said she found instructions to make paper plate chickens on the Giving Catalog’s website, which they displayed.

“We also made our ‘time with children’ sermons during the first two weeks of Advent related to the Giving Catalog project, first the chickens and then the latrines,” she said. “It’s great to have something visual for the kids.”

The Giving Catalog offers a wealth of hands-on activities, including the “I Spy Activity,” complete with downloadable coloring sheets of a chicken, cow, piglet and veggies designed to help children better understand how their gifts make a difference for families and entire communities.

At the APCE Annual Event, adults like Cunningham also enjoyed the opportunity to color — for a cause. And for a prize.

APCE attendees who completed and returned their coloring sheets on day 1 of the annual event were awarded a Piggy Tote; on day 2, a Chicken Tote; and on day 3, Veggies.

Completing coloring sheets featuring items from the Presbyterian Giving Catalog gave APCE Annual Event-goers a welcome respite. (Photo by Margaret Boone)

“I appreciated the coloring because self-care is important,” said Cunningham. “I also wanted to win a chicken tote bag badly! It means something to me because our kids worked on that project. Anything with children and youth is close to my heart.”

Although the chicken and latrine projects were the church’s first experience with — and gifts to — the Catalog, the results from the congregation were remarkable.

“Because the church was so incredibly generous, we ended up with enough money for 15 1/4 families of chickens at $25 each, and 3 1/2 latrines at $350 each,” said Currier.

Riddle explained that when the church’s men’s group heard about funding the latrines, they were so moved by a need that they weren’t previously aware of that they made a gift of a whole latrine.

“It’s sad that people don’t have access to latrines for safety and privacy,” said 12-year-old Maddie. “I’m glad we can help them.”

To which Maddie’s best friend, 13-year-old Violet, added, “We take a lot of things for granted.”

Like First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Indiana, please consider using the Presbyterian Giving Catalog to  spread hope and help create lasting, positive change around the world.

The original article is found here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/taking-the-plunge-to-improve-basic-sanitation-and-hygiene-worldwide/

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDReprinted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

POV Office Closed 12/22/23 – 1/2/24

During the holidays, the presbytery office will be closed from Friday, December 22nd through Monday, January 1st. The office will reopen at 9:00 am on January 2, 2024.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tornado Damage in Sullivan & Martinsville

The following is adapted from the Prayers of the Presbytery announcement sent by the Rev. Susan McGhee on Sunday, April 2, 2023.

Another news article, Tornadoes damage PC(USA) churches and destroy homes in the presbyteries of Ohio Valley and Arkansas, was published by PCUSA on 4/4/2023.

In Sullivan, where the Rev. Dawn Black serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, one hundred fifty homes in town and another fifty in the county were destroyed as a (preliminary) EF-4 tornado swept through the area (the church building was not damaged). Peak winds were 155 miles per hour during the storm that traveled 8.94 miles. As of Sunday evening, there where three confirmed fatalities and at least 300 displaced residents.

In Martinsville, an EF0 tornado with wind gusts of up to 85 miles per hour traveled through the areaThe Rev. John Erickson serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, which sustained considerable damage, ripping the steeple from the building and sending debris into the sanctuary.

The Rev. Susan McGhee, Executive Presbyter, has contacted Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), and a National Response Team is being deployed. She will meet with the leaders of that team Wednesday through Friday to tour the affected areas, offer support to pastors and people, and work on next steps.

Monetary support is always helpful at times like this, as it can quickly be sent to where it is most needed. Gifts can be made to the Presbytery of Ohio Valley marked “disaster assistance” and mailed to
Presbytery of Ohio Valley
P.O. Box 7003
Bloomington, IN 47407

LEARNING CIRCLES

Six weeks of communal learning this January and February

NEXT Church is offering a six-week training and conversation Learning Circle focused on antiracism during January and February 2023.  Each circle is curated with similar content while creating space focused on a specific context or lived experience. Learning circles will unpack the six values upholding white dominance and practice the transforming values to create conditions for equity.  Circles will meet once a week for six weeks and will be led by trained NEXT Church antiracism facilitators.

Through the Myrtle Collaboration 2.0, the Matthew 25 Cohort churches of First Presbyterian Columbus, First Presbyterian Bloomington and Fairlawn Presbyterian Columbus, are offering a limited number of scholarships to cover registration fees for those wishing to attend.  This Learning Circle provides another step towards our shared Matthew 25 Vision of dismantling structural racism.

The cost is $99 and spaces are limited for optimal conversation. Because People of Color will labor in a more costly way as participants in the Learning Circles, the participation cost for People of Color in any circle is $49.

To apply for a scholarship, please email Reverend Felipe Martinez (felipem@nullfpccolumbus.org), then sign up at the link (Learning Circles – NEXT Church). Registration expenses will be reimbursed through Christy Jerman, First Presbyterian Church, 512 7Th Street, Columbus, IN 47201 by mailing in your receipt.

Faith and Climate Crisis Virtual Sunday School

You are invited to participate in a free 4-part virtual Sunday School program on the Climate Crisis. We hope this opportunity will engage hearts, minds and spirits in recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, and will inspire individuals and congregations to take action to address this crisis. (Click to view and download a flyer)

The programs will be offered on four consecutive Sundays; April 11, 18, 25 and May 2 at 4 pm EDT, 3 pm Central, and will be 75 minutes long using the Zoom platform.

Resources, videos, slides and break-out discussions are all components of the programs. This is the third series of presentations to be given within the presbytery. You will find more information on the Presbyterian Climate Advocates website, where you can register for the Sunday School program.

Presbyterian Climate Advocates
Carol Dunn, elder and Earth Care team chair at FPC Scottsburg
Kristina Lindborg, CCL representative, Bloomington
Beth Snyder, elder and Green Team chair at FPC Jeffersonville
Trisha Tull, emerita professor of Bible, Louisville Seminary

Presbyterian Women Spring Gathering Postponed

Updated: 8/25/2020

The Fall Gathering Date has been cancelled.

The Presbyterian Women Spring Gathering in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley was originally planned for May 9, 2020; however, it has been postponed and now has a new date.

The Presbyterian Women Fall Gathering: Celebrating Female Clergy will now take place:

  • Saturday, September 26, 2020 at the Brown Memorial Chapel, College Ave, Hanover, IN.
  • Registrations begins at 9:00 am EDT
  • Lunch cost will be $10

Please make reservations by Monday, September 14, 2020

Downloads: Fall 2020 Meeting Flyer | Spring 2019 Minutes

Contact: Donna McCreary, 812-256-2370 or mtlincoln@nullhotmail.com