Off lectionary as a response to Dallas and other shootings
Because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we can partner with God to turn toward love, mercy, unity even in difficult times as our country is grappling with the problems of race, guns and violence. This is a Christian response to shootings that occurred by police in LA and MN and on police in Dallas the week of July 4th, 2016. We do not have to live in fear and division. We can use this opportunity to learn about ourselves and reach out to those different from us and to learn from them. This is the work of Christ, bringing down dividing walls and ending hostility. And it is our call as well.
Rev. David Ivie, Pastor
We have a problem with race, guns and violence. This is a statement of fact but also a confession and a lament...
We had 5 of our Children and Youth attend Camp Gilmont Summer Camps in Gilmer this past week.
1 Youth attended Adventure Camp, which involves sleeping in treehouses every night and cooking most meals for themselves. Another youth attended Explorer Camp which is for ages 11 - 14, and three attended Discovery Camp for ages 7-10.
This year's theme was Fearless Faith:
The Courage to Show Up
The Courage to Trust
The Courage to Forgive
The Courage to Change
The Courage to Connect
"We believe that camp is one of the foundational experiences for a healthy faith."
A great time was had by all! Not only did they have a chance to be outside in beautiful East Texas, but they were able to connect with other campers they had met in previous summer camps. They were able to learn more about God, hear important stories from the Bible, and sing great worship and camp songs!
We are grateful to the church for supporting our children and youth by paying their way to summer camp! We believe that camp is one of the foundational experiences for a healthy faith. They will report to the church during worship on Sun., July 10th!
1 Kings 19:1-15a Elijah runs from Jezebel's threat and finds God in the sheer sound of silence
5th Sunday after Pentecost, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
We have options when it comes to dealing with difficult people, and we can do better than sitting around stewing and complaining about others. We can't change others but we can change the way we deal with others. Whether we leave, confront or ignore difficult people, God will find us and lead us in the faithful way, through earthquake, windstorm, fire, or even still small voice.
The 222nd General Assembly adjourned just before noon on Saturday. I had a little bit more committee work to do as part of 02 Bills & Overtures. We looked at the Protests and Dissents that had been filed and made sure they were in order. The GA remains in effect until the next GA (223rd) convenes in St. Louis in June 2018.
Afterwards I went two stops down on the light rail and ate lunch at the Portland International Beer Festival. It was in a beautiful tree-lined park with music, food, games and of course beer from all over. People brought their dogs and I enjoyed so much just being outside in the wonderful weather.
On Sunday I went with a group on a "Mission Tour" to Mount St. Helens, which is just about 1.5 hour bus drive. We had an excellent tour guide who explained the history of the volcano and went into great detail about the events around the explosion in May 1980. We made several scenic stops along the way and ate box lunches at Coldwater Lake. Coldwater Lake is within the blast zone which killed everyone and everything, so everything around us was new growth within the last 36 years. In fact Coldwater Lake didn't exist before the blast, it was formed naturally as a result of it. Previously it was only Coldwater Creek.
It was a beautiful clear day. We were able to see a great distance, and I got a sunburn. We got within 6 miles of the mountain, on the north side, near Spirit Lake. It was an incredible experience. The bus was full of Presbyterians who were really enjoying the day of nature after a long week at the Oregon Convention Center.
Monday was travel day. I had a direct flight to DFW but made the mistake of asking the flight attendant on the way in how long the flight was: 3 hours 13 minutes, she said. Instead it turned out to be a 4 hour flight that landed in Lubbock. DFW was surrounded by intense storms around 6 or 7pm last night, so DFW rerouted all the traffic. We few around in circles and finally had to stop in Lubbock to refuel. They did let us de-plane, but the "food court" was only a Pizza Hut, Burger King, and a Bagel Sandwich shop. We got back on the plane and arrived at DFW around 10:30, 3 hours after schedule. I got home around midnight.
"I absolutely loved every bit of it. I loved being a part of the process and having a voice."
Some Reflections on General Assembly Experience:
General Assembly is an overwhelming experience. It is emotionally and mentally draining, but also incredibly inspiring. I absolutely loved every bit of it. I loved being a part of the process and having a voice.
This reaffirmed my love for my denomination. Though I didn't agree with every decision, I gained a new hope for the direction we are going.
I am proud of Grace Presbytery. Our 10 commissioners and YAAD represented us well, making prudent and helpful comments and motions. Grace proved again to be smart and thoughtful.
I was so glad to meet so many new people from all over our denomination. Most of the group dinners and table conversations forced us to eat next to people we didn't know, and I was thoroughly impressed with how we are represented (pastors, elders, etc.)
I was also so glad to catch up with some old friends that I had met at other Presbyterian events in the past. I saw three others who were in my CREDO experience last September, old colleagues from the Presbytery of East Iowa to which I used to belong, other interim pastors. It's nice to know others working across the country, even if we don't keep up with each other on a regular basis.
Five of our Children and Youth attended "Mission Camp" at First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall the week of June 20-24th.
The idea started when First Rockwall approached us about visiting and working in our Garden on the Tuesday of their mission camp. From there, the idea expanded when they invited our children to attend their mission camp for the rest of the week. So it went. Rick drove our kids to Rockwall on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and they came to our church on Tuesday.
On Tuesday they worked in our garden, weeding, harvesting and planting under the direction of Jennifer.
We are grateful to have partnerships with other churches like FPC Rockwall which help us pool our resources and build community!
The rest of the week, Rick drove them to Rockwall where they engaged in other mission activities and had a lesson and devotional time with Pastor Cheryl, who is a good friend of David's. This year's theme was "Feed My Sheep," based on Jesus' instructions to his disciples in John 21.
Mission Camp is a new variation on traditional Vacation Bible School. Rather than spending time inside, Mission Camp engages the children with service activities, followed by a time to reflect on what they did and why they did it.
Besides working in our garden on Tuesday, activities included stuffing pillows for the hospital, making dog biscuits for the animal shelter, and shopping for Helping Hands. Of course there was also time for fun such as swimming and bowling.
the compromise was orchestrated on the floor of the assembly by members of Grace Presbytery
Of special note, we did not vote for full divestment from fossil-free companies. This was a surprise, because the overture had a great deal of concurrences, and the advocacy group Fossil-Free PCUSA ran an excellent grass roots campaign. However, the assembly chose instead to follow the recommendations of the study compiled by the PC(USA)'s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI). This is described as a middle way, and interestingly the compromise was orchestrated on the floor of the assembly by members of Grace Presbytery working in coordination with the commissioners from New Covenant (Houston area). The MRTI report suggests that we use a "focused engagement process" with oil, gas, and coal companies, working with them through our investments to reduce emissions and reliance upon fossil fuels.
In other business, on Friday morning I spoke on the floor against a recommendation that we change "teaching elder" to "minister of Word and Sacrament." The assembly voted for it anyway, so now it goes to the presbyteries for approval since it is a constitutional change.
Yesterday was a historic day for our denomination. In a very moving moment, we voted to accept the Belhar Confession and added it to our Book of Confessions. This is historic in that it is extremely difficult to amend the Book of Confessions, far more difficult than to amend the Book of Order. It takes the action of 3 different General Assemblies and also the approval of 2/3 (not simple majority) of the presbyteries. It happens maybe once every generation, if that. This was the final step of the process. It is also historic in that it was 50 years ago that the GA met here in Portland to adopt the Confession of 1967 which deals in part with the issue of racial issues in our society and the theme of reconciliation. Belhar was a response to apartheid in South Africa, and has three main themes of unity, reconciliation, and justice. It has much to say to the church now as we gather grapple with issues of race in the wake of the massacre in Orlando and the 1 year anniversary of the shootings of African American church members in Charlotte.
We also approved a revised Directory for Worship (the middle section of our Book of Order) to be sent to the presbyteries for approval.
I don't think you'll be able to see me, fortunately, my spot is not in line with the cameras!
Belhar has much to say to the church now as we gather grapple with issues of race in the wake of the massacre in Orlando and the 1 year anniversary of the shootings of African American church members in Charlotte.
If you are not sure about how this works, please know there are several ways we do business in General Assemblies:
vote on constitutional changes that are then sent to presbyteries for approval. The constitution is NOT changed until the proposal is approved by a majority of presbyteries by June of next year. Most of these deal with proposed revisions to the Book of Order (Book of Confessions is a longer, different process)
issue authoritative interpretations (much like courts issue rulings on existing constitution)
And importantly, the General Assembly is made up of people like you and me, commissioners sent from presbyteries from all over the nation and Puerto Rico. It is not a separate entity. And the Office of the General Assembly (in Louisville, KY) can only do things that are decided at GA like this one. The church is us!
"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." Phi. 1:6 NRSV
The committees have finished meeting and now we are back in plenary sessions as an assembly. There's not much yet to report, so I wanted to share some other things with you so you know what all happens in a General Assembly.
Since I have been here I have attended 5 different meal events. These meals are hosted by special groups that are either a part of our denomination or are special advocacy groups that work to promote certain agendas. For example this morning I attended the Ecumenical Breakfast where I heard an address from the Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak, who was instrumental in working against apartheid in South Africa and the creation of the Belhar Confession, which is pending approval to add to our Book of Confessions.
The other picture shows the TriMet light rail train that we are using to get around town. I've haven't been in a car since I drove to the airport on Friday! This public transportation is handy and well-managed.
We are meeting inside the Oregon Convention Center which can be seen by the two greenish spires in the distance along the river in the third photo. I walked along the river to the Convention Center after lunch today. I figured I would be sitting the rest of the day, so I got my 10,000 steps in before 2:00 p.m.
I heard a powerful address from the Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak, who was instrumental in working against apartheid in South Africa.
I hope this gives you a sense of what is happening. We will be meeting in plenary for the rest of today, all day Thursday & Friday, all the way through noon on Saturday. I'll keep you posted on things as they develop!
"I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you." Romans 1:17-18 NRSV
Ecumenical Breakfast with Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak
The TriMet light rail train in downtown Portland
The River Walk along Columbia River with the Oregon Convention Center in the distance
Monday and Tuesday are long, quiet days, the days for committees to do their work. They debate each item of business that has been assigned to them. Through their work, many items will get added to the "consent agenda," but items that need discussion and debate are amended and voted to recommend or to disapprove. Then those items will come before the floor of the plenary for the rest of the week and be discussed and even amended again. Usually the plenary will accept the recommendation of the committee and vote accordingly, but also the assembly might vote against the recommendation, so you never know how things will go.
Through this process we have begun to get a sense of the overall tenor of the General Assembly, and also to hear what some of the big issues that are arising--the issues we will debate in plenary beginning Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 PM.
Some of the items that are in different committees:
Who will be the next stated clerk?
Will Teaching Elders be called Ministers of Word and Sacrament again?
Should we divest our monies from fossil fuel companies?
Will we adopt a new Directory for Worship (part three of the Book of Order)?
Should the denomination issue an official apology for the harm done to the LGBTQ community in our previous policies?
Will we conclude the 6 year process of adding a new confession to our Book of Confessions (Confession of Belhar, South Africa)?
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." Acts 2 46-47 NRSV
I have included a couple of photos of two different committees to give you a sense of what is going on these two days:
Committee 06 is Church Polity and Ordered Ministry. This is the committee I am observing as part of my work on 02 Bills and Overtures. You can see in the photo to the left that the committee is gathered around tables with microphones, a moderator, a co-moderator, a parliamentarian, a resource person. Observers and advocates for various issues sit in the chairs behind this. We are allowed to observe everything, but we have no voice or vote. One lady I front of me is watching Netflix on her mini iPad. A guy to my right is nodding off. Because we are listening them debate a motion to amend the amendment to the main motion. Committee 06 is the room where you hear things like "ruling elder" "statute of limitations" "renouncing jurisdiction" "parity" and "Advisory Committee on the Constitution."
Committee 08 is Middle East Issues. You can see in the photo below that this is a much larger room, larger committee, and more people observing. This room also has people from special interest groups, like Jewish and Palestinian groups advocating for or against certain issues. The internal press is also there. This is the room where you hear things like "Palestinian" "reconciliation" "justice" "Advisory Council on Social Witness Policy" "settlements" and "let's stop the madness" "let them work it out themselves."
Tonight Grace Presbytery is taking all of us out to dinner at a local restaurant. It will be good to be back together and talk about all that we have seen and heard.
It's days like this that I remember the words from Acts: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." Acts 2:46-47
On Saturday evening we elected Co-Moderators of the General Assembly. This is the first time that we as a denomination have ever elected Co-Moderators. Usually there are Moderators who choose Vice-Moderators, much like our nation elects a President who has a running mate. This was also the first time that two women stood for the office.
Also, this was an historic election in that it was also the first time that an African-American woman has been elected to this position. It was clear to the me and the assembly that these two women were the right choice for our denomination at this time.
The Co-Moderators moderate the rest of this assembly, but then also spend the next two years traveling around the country (and the world) meeting with Presbyterians and all our partners. They are the "face" of our denomination until the next General Assembly which meets in St. Louis in 2018 elects their replacement(s).
Also, this was an historic election in that it was also the first time that an African-American woman has been elected to this position. It was clear to the me and the assembly that these two women were the right choice for our denomination at this time.
On Sunday morning I worshipped at First Presbyterian Church in Portland, which is walking distance from my hotel. You can see in the photo attached how beautiful is the sanctuary made up of Douglas Fir and cherry woods and a great pipe organ. Craig Barnes, the President of Princeton Theological Seminary is shown preaching. The church hosted the General Assembly in 1892, that is when they added the cherry wood balcony.
After lunch a small group of us visited Powell's bookstore, which is a haven for book lovers. (see photo below) It is so big they give you a map, and have the building divided up into many different rooms. We went to the rare books room where I saw a first edition of the Grapes of Wrath for $250. I didn't buy it!
Our last plenary meeting until Wednesday was Sunday afternoon, where we heard a report from the Stated Clerk Nominating Committee. The Stated Clerk is elected on Friday and he/she will run the Office of the General Assembly in Louisville for a four-year term.
Last night all the committees began to meet. I am Committee 02 Bills & Overtures. We are responsible for making sure the General Assembly business runs smoothly. We set the docket for the plenary sessions that resume on Wed. We handled 12 Commissioner Resolutions. We sent 10 of them to the appropriate committees (there are 14 committees). We voted to NOT send two resolutions because they were either duplications of other business already submitted or because they were not appropriate for the GA to decide.
Committees will meet all day today. As part of my duties on Committee 02 I am observing Committee 06 Church Polity, which again shows what a nerd I am. Other committees such as Middle East Issues, Environment, or The Way Forward deal with more hot button issues such as a report on the Israel / Palestinian conflict that some feel is too "anti-Israel," divestment from fossil-fuel companies, or a host of overtures from Foothills Presbytery that wish to change the way we operate as a denomination, especially our engagement in social justice issues.
Thank you for your prayerful support. Continue to love and care for one another. "So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of the faith." Gal 6:10 NRSV
Just a quick update to let you know that I arrived in Portland about 5:00 PM local time yesterday (Friday) (remember we are two hours behind you). I was immediately greeted with a cool breeze, fresh air, and a view of a mountain from the airplane. I took the light rail from the airport to the Oregon Convention Center (about a 40 minute trip) where I got checked in to the General Assembly, and then made my way to the hotel.
I attended two meet and greet sessions (one last night with VooDoo Donuts!) and then the Assembly opened this morning at 11:00 with worship and communion. The attached photo is the view from my assigned seat showing the Assembly handbell choir (they played hand chimes and then switched to handbells) who played with the Assembly Choir on "Dream On, Dream On" by Hae Jong Kim, music by Sun Kyung Lee, arranged by Michael Burkhardt. Know that when Presbyterians gather for the General Assembly we meet in 1) worship, 2) committees, and 3) plenary sessions. My committee starts meeting tomorrow.
Know that when Presbyterians gather for the General Assembly we meet in 1) worship, 2) committees, and 3) plenary sessions. Worship always comes first.
Today is a full day. We are meeting in plenary this afternoon, and will meet again tonight to elect the next Moderator (or Co-Moderators) who will be the face of the church for the next two years. It's a huge job with lots of travel that I would never want! We have been supremely blessed these past two years with the leadership of Heath Rada from North Carolina. Love that man!
I am here with 9 other commissioners from Grace Presbytery. The total commissioners from all presbyteries is about 500. I have also reconnected with friends from the larger church that I have previously met from other conferences. You can follow what we are doing by going to
J.R. "Dick" Neal passed away at his home on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016. Dick joined on Nov 20, 2005, the same day that Stacey joined. Gilbert and Stacey became friends with him and spent a great deal of time visiting him and taking care of things for him. Thank you to both of them for the Christian witness of service they have shown in their relationship to Dick.
We give thanks for the life that God blessed us with in Dick and celebrate the good news that in life and in death we belong not to ourselves but to our faithful savior Jesus Christ.
Dick was a lifelong farmer of Kaufman County and a veteran of World War II. He had just celebrated his 100th birthday in January. Dick was very generous to many good causes around Kaufman County, including our church. He and Mick Spellman were the major contributors who allowed us to move to our new church building debt-free 10 years ago. That is why our building has a plaque calling it the "Spellman-Neal Building." (photo taken on Palm Sunday 2006 at the groundbreaking ceremony for our new building, Mr. Neal on the left next to Mr. Spellman).
We give thanks for the life that God blessed us with in Dick and celebrate the good news that in life and in death we belong not to ourselves but to our faithful savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
On Wednesday evening May 25, the church gathered to celebrate the 9 months of our Wednesday evening program for children and youth. The children and youth invited parents and all of the church for the evening of outdoor games.
We ate inside — yummy hotdogs and hamburgers — and showed the parents and supporters our typical Wednesday routine, complete with songs led by Pastor David on guitar.
Then we enjoyed the nice evening outside with a variety of games and a water balloon fight.
We figured that our great year deserved a great finish, and that is what God provided. Special thanks to Lamar and Frances for cooking and donating the delicious hamburgers and hotdogs!
We were pleased to learn from the Forney Messenger that former member Mel Maxfield recently received the Tom Landry Award. The award is voted on by the High School Coaches Association and reflects the coach's work over an extended period of time. Mel was coach for Forney High School from 1987-2001, leading the team to 11 playoff appearances and an overall record of 129-43-1. He is currently the football coach at Amarillo High School. During his time in Forney, Mel was a proud member of our congregation.
During his time in Forney, Mel was a great coach but more than that he was a wonderful example to the youth of our church and the entire town.
Ruth McAnally writes: "Mel Maxfield came to Forney as a young single man to take his first head coaching job at Forney High School. He soon began worshipping at FPC Forney. During his 15 years in Forney, he was a dedicated member, serving as a Ruling Elder. During his term on the session, he encouraged us to start a scholarship fund to honor our graduating seniors. The church budget was pretty meager at the time, so he came up with the idea of "Christmas in July." The women of the church made and sold Christmas items to raise seed money for the fund."
"Mel was a great coach but more than that he was a wonderful example to the youth of our church and the entire town. He married Jill and had his family while in our church. We are so thankful for his time with us and so proud of his many well-deserved honors. We love you, Mel!"
"Your friends at Forney First Presbyterian Church"
(thanks to the Forney Messenger and Ruth McAnally for this article)
The cake auction that was hosted by the youth on Sunday April 17th was a great success.
The wonderful bakers of the church made Italian Cream Cakes, a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Chocolate and Chocolate Earthquake Cakes, Pizza Cookies, and a Vanilla Cake with Orange zest decorated to look like a Sunflower.
The youth, with the help of Lance & Rick, made a Red Velvet Cake and a Death by Chocolate Cake.
Everyone had a great time trying to outbid each other, and the youth enjoyed being the "auctioneers" and encouraging the congregation to raise the bids.
The auction and donations brought in $1,235, which exceeded their goal. The monies raised helps to offset the cost of the Presbyterian Youth Trienniun which will be held at Purdue this July.
The youth are very grateful to the congregation for your support.
FPC Forney has a vital role to play in our community, an important voice at the table.
Rev. David Ivie
You might have heard about it on the interwebs or the news: First Presbyterian Church in Muscatine, Iowa (where I was pastor for 5 years before returning to Texas in 2012) made the news this past Sunday.[i] It made the news because