11/25 Presbytery Pastor Message

To:  Ministers, Commissioned Ruling Elders, Certified Christian Educators, Candidates and Inquirers

From:    Tom Sheffield

Date:   November 25, 2014

Prayers for Ferguson

As the city of Ferguson convulses with frustration, hate, and violence, we are paralyzed and find few words with which to respond.  Whatever words do come seem to bring more polarization and fuel increased anger.  Yet, as people of the Living God, we are compelled to speak words of compassion, hope, justice, peace and love.  We are compelled, too, to pray that we might find words that reach to others, to the parents and family and friends of Michael Brown who continue to grieve, to the citizens of Ferguson who are stunned and yet must find ways to go on with life,  to police and others in law enforcement who also are stunned and must work to maintain order, to African-American sisters and brothers who once again relive the anguish of the past, feel despair in the present and fear for the future, and to the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy and its congregations, ministers, and members, especially, those who serve in Ferguson and who seek to witness to the Presence and Hope of Jesus Christ in this time.   We are compelled, too, to find concrete, real and abiding ways to bring to all our communities a new sense of wholeness and justice in Christ.  Let us all commit to that today, in all our relationships, in each of our congregations, throughout our communities, within the Presbytery of Denver, in the Presbyterian Church (USA), in our nation and across the earth. On your behalf, I have written to the leadership of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy and asked them to extend to their whole presbytery our support and love as they continue to minister to all.  

As a connectional church the Presbyterian Church (USA) already is acting.  At the invitation of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been providing and will continue to give pastoral support to the leadership of all churches in the community. The following prayer has also been offered by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in this time:   

God our Shelter, hold us under the shelter of your wings as we bow before you in grief and pain for the brokenness of our world.
Some years we wonder why the Advent texts that prepare us for your Coming One begin with judgment, not with hope.
Not this year.  This year, we struggle with juries and justice and judgment--
     What is right? What is wrong? What is fair?
What can we do, with such fear and anger and longing,
     that can bind us together, rather than further tear apart the fabric of our common life? 
We are all too aware of our flawed humanity, and we need the hope of Advent:
the hope that once again, as long ago, You may show up among us
      in our cities, our neighbors, and ourselves--
      in the midst of civic unrest and social disorder,
      around joyful family tables at Thanksgiving,
      in the angry streets: oh, show up in our midst!
A Stranger without privilege or place:  Emmanuel, God with us.
We pray for our neighbors in Ferguson, in this hard season of judgment--
       for each of them is a child made in your image.
We pray for ourselves, that this hurt will not fade from our minds 
     before our hearts are broken open with Your passion for mercy, justice, and love.    
Restore our hope, our heart,
      our sense of the possibility of holiness in your creation.
Fill us, your wounded, willing people, with
     the expectation of the coming of the Prince of Peace,
     the hope that we might nurture the healing of the nations,
     and the willingness to bear the Christ-light, even in these Advent days of shadow,
that the peaceable kingdom for which our ancestors yearned and prayed
     might one day, some day soon, dawn among us.
In the name of the Holy Child, the coming one, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

In Our Presbytery

The December Service of Communion will be held on Thursday, December 11, at Peoples Church.  If you are receiving this message, you are personally invited to attend this time of worship and sacrament and gather with other colleagues for some great food and conversation.  The service will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the church and, following the service, we will go to a near-by restaurant for lunch together.  Cost of the lunch will be between $10 and $15.   I know it will be Advent and things are getting more and more pressured in congregational ministry, but I also hope that you will allow this season to be one of forming deeper relationships and new friendships with other servants of the Church. Please RSVP no later than Tuesday, December 9 to 303-777-2453 or judy@denpres.org.  

Prayers are asked for Margaret Bell, wife of John Bell, who now is recuperating from surgery at home.  We rejoice and give thanks to God with Katie Robb Davis and Bill Davis at the birth of their son, Coulter, born on November 21.  

In our Midst.  In my last few messages to you, I have lifted up some of the authors who are in our midst, colleagues who have the gift of writing and have had their work published.  Sylvia Casberg has written many articles, studies and books.  Her book of prayers, Praying the Seasons, I think, is one of her best and can be obtained through Sunny Fields Publishing, PO Box 546, Solvang, CA  93464.  Appropriate for the coming day of Thanksgiving she has written these words:

                 Bountiful God, you love us more than we can understand,
                       giving us more than we dare ask,
                            forgiving us more than we deserve.
                 Thank you for the gifts of life that make our hearts leap
                        and our eyes moisten with happiness.
                  Thank you for the great cloud of beloved ones who have 
                         gone before us to their reward, 
                               leaving to our keeping
                                   their witness to faith and their testimony to joy.

Thank you, Sylvia, for these words.  And thanks to all of you for your words and lives that “witness to faith” and your ministries and service that are a “testimony of joy.” May your Thanksgiving be filled with many opportunities to give and receive more words of gratitude!

Other Ministries and Opportunities for You  

A Celebration of Service honoring Stated Clerk Anne Bond takes place on Thursday, January 15 at Wellshire Church.  This gathering will include a time to Meet and Greet Anne at 5:30 p.m., a program beginning at 6:30 and dessert at 7:30.  You are asked to RSVP to the Presbytery of Denver by sending a check for $20 per person.  

The Next Presbytery Assembly on January 27, 2015 will be held at Calvary Church.  It will be a full and important Assembly that will include: the installation of our new moderator, Ruling Elder Diane Ritzdorf, and our new vice-moderator, The Rev. Mark Vickstrom; the recognition of the ministry of our current moderator, The Rev. Dr. Dee Cooper; a report from the Interim Stated Clerk Search Committee; a recognition of our relationship with The Colorado Trust; updates on Committee on Preparation for Ministry policy redevelopment; debate and voting on changes to the Book of Order; information about allocations for mission partnerships and covenant communities; the election of synod commissioners; a presentation of and vote on a new Vision Statement for the Presbytery; and recognition of the service of Stated Clerk Anne Bond.  The pre-assembly time will focus on the proposed changes to the Book of Order with particular emphasis on the proposed changes to the definition of marriage.  More information about the pre-assembly presentations and dialogue and other items of business will be available next month.  

Being Leaders:  Living into Your Call is a special event for teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons, sponsored by the Council’s Leadership Work Group.   It will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Brighton, on February 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  The Rev. James Gale, Coordinator of Theocademy, a discipleship and leadership training series for Presbyterians, will be the leader and there will be opportunity for exploration and dialogue about the challenge, opportunity and possibilities of being a leader in our congregations.  

Swim with the Dolphins is a special trip offered by Montview Blvd. Church and to be led by Dee Cooper, August 2-8, 2015.  Full information is found on the Presbytery website (www.denpres.org) under Events. Deadline for registering is December 31.