Category Archives: Presbytery

‘We are here, we are ready, and we are eager to see what God is about to do’

Original article found here.

Triennium’s opening worship infused with youthful joy and enthusiasm

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Sera Chung, the preacher during Tuesday’s opening worship at Presbyterian Youth Triennium, joins with the Nettletons to sing “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (Photo by Rich Copley)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — More than 4,000 youth and their chaperones clearly energized by having arrived at Purdue University for the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium worshiped together Tuesday night through movement, singing, prayer, confession — and by hearing thoughtful, heartfelt preaching.

“God’s bigger than anything we can imagine,” the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly, told worshipers.

“We believe God calls each of us to ministry,” said her fellow co-moderator, Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri. “We encourage you to have fun, make memories — and tell us all about it.”

After a drama team told snippets of their personal stories, their leader, the Rev. Mark Montgomery of Norwalk, Conn., assured worshipers that this week, God will write a new story on their heart. The theme for Tuesday was “Tune my Heart.”

Energizers and upbeat music served to pump up the more than 4,000 people at Purdue University attending the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Music performed by the Nettletons, Triennium’s house worship band, elicited a sea of cell phone flashlights that swayed gently with the rhythm.

The service’s call to worship concluded with these words, recited by just about everyone in the Elliott Hall of Music: “We are here, we are ready, and we are eager to see what God is about to do.”

Then the Rev. Sera Chung took to the stage.

Chung, director of the Asian American program at Princeton Theological Seminary, preached from Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing … For the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness to all generations.”

Chung posed this question to the gathered youth: What is life? For Chung, an accomplished musician, it’s a song, “and you better sing that song with the unique instrument God gave you. We take our stories and perch them on a melody so they can take flight.”

The problem, she said, is that “we all want to write a hit song.” The lyric must be catchy, the rhythm funky and the song “must be relatable so it touches the audience.”

The Rev. Sera Chung, director of the Asian American program at Princeton Theological Seminary, was the preacher during Tuesday’s opening worship at Triennium. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Most of the Bible’s 150 psalms are laments, she said. The psalmists, many of them anonymous, rail against sickness, feelings of betrayal and abandonment, false accusation — all part of the human condition. “We can’t help but notice,” Chung said, “that happiness cannot exist apart from suffering. Life gives us psalms to sing that are bitter but also sweet, loud but also silent.”

They’re not songs that come from places of order, equilibrium, peace or comfort, she said. The people who sang them “were subject to being relocated, isolated, shut down and overwhelmed,” she said. “Yet we see them tuning their hearts, singing their way into God’s presence … It is through this trust in God’s steadfast love that we can sing these psalms.”

When her mother died unexpectedly not long ago, “the only sound that came out of my mouth were sounds of deep pain and suffering.” Rather than tuning her heart, Chung said she was ready to tune out. But friends reminded her she still had a song to sing.

“Singing and tuning our hearts to God are not limited to certain individuals, leaders or kings,” she said. “It’s a call to all of us to sing a testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness.”

As Chung and the Nettletons joined to sing “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Triennium’s theme song, Chung asked worshipers to name the things their hearts are currently seeking.

“Does it seek for justice? A repaired relationship?” she asked. “Shout out what your heart is seeking.”

Those in attendance did exactly that as the musicians concluded the hymn.

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Center for Congregations presents Workshop on Racial Justice

Presented by the Center for Congregations.

Racial Justice and Your Congregation

We have greater awareness of our neighbors than ever before. This awareness includes the present reality of great division across racial and ethnic lines. Your congregation can play a key role in creating safe space to have difficult conversations about racial inequities. You can help lead the way in moving our culture toward collective action to achieve a fairer and more just society.

Dr. Michael R. Twyman, subject matter expert on race and racism, leads this full-day workshop. He will help increase your understanding about race, as well as actions and responses your congregation can take to combat racism. This is a highly interactive workshop, so come prepared to participate in dialogue about all of the topics listed below. Dr. Twyman will use this time as an opportunity to model how to have open, honest conversations about race and racism.

In the morning session, he will define terms, introduce a conceptual framework for race, discuss the historical precedents and the science of race, and present the implications for the role race plays in the life of congregations and in the broader community. In the afternoon session, he will facilitate an interactive, hands-on deep dive into how your congregation can be mobilized and empowered to promote racial justice within your respective institutions, and the communities you represent and are called to serve.

The workshop is designed to achieve two fundamental goals:

  • To provide you with various tools and resources to have healthy dialogue about race within your congregation.
  • To equip you with knowledge and techniques to confront racism and racial oppression within your congregation and the broader society.


Dr. Michael R. Twyman is the principal/owner of InExcelsis, a private consulting firm that works with institutions seeking to maximize their performance and effectiveness. He has assisted numerous organizations with governance, cultural competency, strategic planning, fund development, program management, and evaluation. An associate faculty member of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Twyman teaches courses on race and social justice.

This workshop is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (Central time) Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Evansville. The cost is $30 per person. When congregational teams of three or more register together, the cost is discounted to $25 per person. This fee includes continental breakfast, lunch and workshop materials.

Workshops limited to Indiana congregations.

Protecting Places of Worship Forum

An interfaith meeting for faith-based leaders and community members on how to prevent and respond to hate crimes against places of worship

When: Friday, April 12, 2019 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: St. George Social Center, 1900 S. 4th Street, Terre Haute, IN

  • Overview of Religious Hate Crimes by representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, and local law enforcement officials
  • Preventing and responding to Active Shooter Situations
  • Threat assessments by federal and local law enforcement
  • Discussion on various ways of Protecting Houses of Worship
  • Panel presentations by representatives of faith, interfaith and local social groups vulnerable to intimidation, bias, hate incidents, and/or hate crimes instigated by people both inside and outside their faith communities.
  • Discussions regarding Hate Crimes in the Wabash Valley.

Facilitated by: United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service and The Federal Bureau of Investigation

Co-hosted by: Terre Haute Human Relations Commission and The Interfaith Council of the Wabash Valley (IFC)

Lunch Included – No fee. Free will donations gratefully accepted

Please RSVP by April 4 to:

Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders (MSTI)

When:     May 13-17, 2019

Where:    Utica United Methodist Church in Sterling Heights, MI

Who:       Clergy and lay leaders who are interested in learning skills to help deal more effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict

Please note that the deadline by which to register and receive a $200 tuition discount is April 12, 2019.

For complete details, please consult this brochure.

To register online, go to Brown Paper Tickets.

For more information about the mission and programs of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, visit the website at

Presbytery Boundary Training

The Presbytery of Ohio Valley is offering
two identical opportunities for Boundary Training

Monday, October 1 – Indiana Presbyterian Church, Vincennes

Tuesday, October 2 – Mitchell Presbyterian Church

10:00am — 3:00pm (lunch will be provided)

Boundary training is required for all

  • minister members of the presbytery
  • ruling elders commissioned to pastoral service
  • certified christian educators and certified associate christian educators
  • ministers of other denominations serving in one of our churches.

If you are a person who is required to attend but are not able to do so, please email the Stated Clerk, David Crittenden, (dave@nullpresbyteryov.orgwith your request and the reason you need to be excused. You will be contacted to arrange for a way to complete the training at another time.

Others are welcome and encouraged to attend. 

To register for one of these events, click this link

Please register by Thursday, September 20

We thank the Synod of Lincoln Trails for its partnership,
and we invite others within the bounds of the synod to join us.  

Our presenter will be Mark Sundby, M.Div., Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist and Executive Director of LeaderWise

Mark has served as a consultant, teacher, and counselor in the field of psychology for over twenty years. For the past eighteen years, as executive director of LeaderWise/North Central Ministry Development Center, he has specialized in personality and leadership assessment, with an emphasis on health and wholeness, leadership development, and conflict skills training. The center contracts with over fifteen businesses, denominations, and seminaries to provide leadership assessments, and meets with about 750 to 1,000 individuals each year.
As executive director of LeaderWise, Mark regularly presents keynote addresses and workshops on a variety of topics, including conflict management, resiliency, emotional intelligence, and competency modeling to measure and develop effective leaders. Since 1993, he has also served as a visiting professor at St. Olaf College, teaching classes in counseling psychology, health psychology, and the psychology of leadership. In addition to St. Olaf, he has also taught at the graduate level at Saint Mary’s University and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
Mark is an ordained United Methodist pastor in the Wisconsin Conference and a licensed psychologist. He earned his doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota, masters of divinity from the University of Chicago, and bachelors from St. Olaf College. In his personal life, Mark keeps busy with family, being married for thirty-two years and having two young adult sons, and pursuing interests in bicycling, hiking, exercising, cooking, reading, and spending time with friends.

Join Bread For The World Ninth Congressional District Network

From The First Presbyterian Church of Scottsburg, Indiana:

Tom Blake, a Bread for the World volunteer in Greenwood, is working to form an ecumenical network of churches located within the ninth Congressional District.  The plan is for these churches to join our efforts to coordinate when and how we conduct our 2018 Bread for the World Offering of Letters.

My Scottsburg First Presbyterian Church has been organizing an annual Offering of Letters for the past 13 or 14 years.  For this year’s campaign we have decided to join the group effort so that our collective work will result in stronger voices on behalf of hungry people.  We realize that, given the stated priorities of our current national leadership, we must do even more than ever to protect programs that are the lifeblood for hungry folks both here and abroad.

If your congregation already participates in the annual Offering of Letters, please consider joining us!  In Scottsburg, we will be writing our letters in mid-late May (culminating on May 20).  Tom Blake is working on scheduling appointments in June with Rep. Trey Hollinsworth and Senators Donnelly and Young.  He will be inviting all who are interested to bring letters from our individual churches to join him in delivering them during these appointments.  This visual will be a powerful reminder to our legislators that there are MANY folks throughout the ninth district who care deeply about our Christian mandate to care for the “least of these.”

If you decide to join our collective efforts, please contact Tom Blake at Also—please don’t hesitate to email ( or call me (812-820-2245) for more information.

Information about the 2018 Offering of Letters can be found at the Bread for the World website:

If your congregation has yet to join with Bread for the World to advocate for hungry people, please consider starting an Offering of Letters Campaign this year.  Bread for the World has been a collective Christian voice since 1974, when it first began to organize to urge our nation’s leaders to end hunger.  Partnering with churches, campuses and other organizations, and moved by God’s grace, BFW envisions and advocates for a world without hunger.

The annual Offering of Letters Campaign was initiated in 1975, when 100,000+ letters were written and sent to Congress on the topic “right to food.” This resulted in the landmark Right to Food Resolution, passed overwhelmingly by Congress that states, “. . .the United States reaffirms the right of every person in this country and throughout the world to food and a nutritionally adequate diet…” Four decades later, this simple idea—offering letters—remains one of BFW’s organizing strategies.

These truly are extraordinary times in our nation’s history. How we address the challenges for poor and hungry people that our time presents will reflect our faithfulness to God’s call to care for just such folks.  This year’s Offering of Letter is titled: FOR A TIME SUCH AS THIS (Biblical reference:  Esther 4:14).  Perhaps we, like Esther, have come to “royal dignity” for just such a time as this.

Yours in Christ,
Carol Dunn, Leader, Christian Outreach Team
Scottsburg First Presbyterian Church

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.