Take the Long View

Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


 At last count I have over 100 relatives. Yet, I am the only Presbyterian in my entire family. This includes my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins. I have looked into my family history and gone back to 1865. Not one Presbyterian is mentioned. This is why the story my mother would tell about the Presbyterian church is so prominent.

I grew up in a household of stories. My Mother would tell stories of her childhood, and what life was like in the neighborhood ghetto of Bronzeville, Chicago. This is where the majority of African Americans coming to Chicago during the great migration were forced to live. It was densely packed and desperately poor. But I never knew of the poverty when listening to my mother’s stories.

She talked about her seven brothers and two sisters. She spoke of the crazy antics her cousins would do. She shared stories of my father running the gauntlet through her brothers (physically running!), just to see her.

And she talked about the Presbyterian Church.

Just outside of the cramp spaces of her neighborhood, stood Sixth Presbyterian church (now Sixth Grace Presbyterian). Each summer, Sixth would invite the kids from Bronzeville to learn, play, and have fun in their summer youth program. My mother often spoke of this needed reprieve with great fondness. My childhood memories of Mom sharing stories about Sixth Presbyterian warms my heart even now.

Fast forward to my adulthood. After almost 20 years as a member of the Pentecostal Church which my mother belonged to and loved, I felt called to join the Presbyterians. I went to Mom, hoping for her acceptance and blessing. Once again, she shared her story of Sixth, and how much that meant to her growing up. Then she said, “Craig, I don’t care if you go, just stay with Jesus.”

So many of our congregations serve children and youth with summer programs, Easter events, and Christmas dramas. We are often discouraged by the small return on investment of our time and energy. These children rarely come back as members. I don’t know why my Mother never joined Sixth. I have to believe it had something to do with her being close to her grandmother, who belonging to a Holiness church which Mom attended with her.

But, perhaps we should take the long view. I am a living witness of the value of a long-term investment. What Sixth did for those poor children in Chicago back in the 1930s and 40s have produced a strong Presbyterian adult in 2018. I love the Presbyterian church and am grateful for the warmth in my heart that was created by faithful people; people who had a vision to bring a little joy in the lives of local children.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Two Churches

“The opposite of scarcity isn’t abundance. The opposite of scarcity is enough. Dynamic leaders recognize that they have enough to do what God is calling them to do.”
-Rev Craig Howard at FUPC Leadership Summit

Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


This weekend I experienced two churches in two different parts of our presbytery.

Imagine asking 40 leaders in your church to come out on a Saturday morning for plenaries and workshops. As they arrive there are quality donuts, good coffee, and fruit. There is lively conversation around tables as people interact with the information and with each other. Plenty of laughter fills the room, people feel free to speak, and recognize they are being heard by the pastor and other leaders. This was Saturday morning at First United Belleville in Belleville Illinois, where Pastor Rob Dyer and I presented workshops.

Something is happening at First United Belleville. There is remarkable energy along with a diversity of age and race. What strikes me is the willingness of people to participate and be involved with the vision of the church. They are making it happen, and the presence of a pastor who is a dynamic leader, makes the difference.

Now, switch to Sunday. I experienced another dynamic and charismatic pastor. Karl Hauser is the new pastor at Southminster Presbyterian. Karl and Jennifer (who is also a minister of Word and Sacrament) arrived here from Northern California. Last week they closed on their home and are settling into the community with their 15 month old toddler, Benny. Karl is already making a difference in the church with his creative ministry style and personal engagement.

I have to say a few words about Benny! He is a curious, active, toddler, who is musically inclined. Benny has a lot to say, but we can’t understand his words yet! As I watched him speak “baby talk,” I began to wonder about all he will teach his parents about life and the world as he sees it.

Southminster (and the presbytery) is like Benny. They are learning a new way of being church, as they articulate God’s dream for them. This future of words-not-yet-completely-formed, will not be a straight line from the present, but it will curl, dip, and dive! It is a future of hope and excitement as seen through a new lens. God is working with and through the congregation, and they have elected the right person to lead them.

Two churches. Two histories. Two futures. The common thread is energy and leadership. It is a great time to be part of Giddings-Lovejoy!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Children

Steelville Presbyterian
2017 Confirmation Class

Blog post by the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


On Sunday I was the keynote speaker for Webster Groves community celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a wonderful and full program. What made the event outstanding were the presentations of the children. A large elementary age children’s choir sang two songs. Later, a group of teenagers sang with tight harmonies and strong emotion.

While the children were getting organized to sing, some were nervous, others laughing, while others were just being obedient. The occasional children’s cough could be heard (it is flu season!). Just seeing them in their bright orange t-shirts and black slacks warmed my heart.

Having children present in our homes and in our congregations, makes a difference. My youngest daughter turns 25 in April. I do not have grandchildren (I’ve let each of my daughters know that my time is running out- no pressure!). I haven’t had to “kid proof” my home in over 15 years!

In Milwaukee, I met an activist who wanted to connect with the presbytery. She had a four year old boy. I thought I’d try convincing her to attend one of my congregations. She asked if the church was “child friendly.” She said she needs a crying-out-loud-running-in-the-aisles-hiding-under-the-pews child friendly church!

The presence of children changes our worship, the structure of our meetings, the content of our curriculum, and what we find meaningful. Children force us to take seriously the economy and ecology. We are forced to think about the financial safety net they will inherit, the poisons we are dumping into the water and air, and the condition of the earth we are leaving for them.

Children bring energy, and mistakes that demand forgiveness. Children remind us that the things we valued and thought were so important when we were young, can dissolve like sugar in coffee, and God still loves us, and life goes on.

I encourage our congregations to make your church a home for children. By doing ministry for children, we open our hearts for God’s grace in our lives.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Ruling Elders Rule

Ruling Elder Installation Presbytery of Baltimore

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard

Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


 

I come from a family of bishops. My great-grandfather was a bishop of several Holiness churches along the east-Texas border with western Louisiana. My father became a bishop of the same Holiness organization. My brother became a bishop of Pentecostal churches in Michigan.

I wanted nothing to do with bishops. This is one reason I became Presbyterian!

Presbyterian polity believes in a shared governance. Congregations are led by pastors and sessions. As moderator of the session, the pastor has great influence, but the Book of Order is clear that ruling elders who serve on the session, are the leaders of the congregation as well. “The session shall have responsibility for governing the congregation . . . so that the congregation is and becomes a community of faith, hope, love, and witness (Book of Order G.3.0201).”

Ruling Elders occupy a unique place in the life of the church. Many of them serve the church while working a secular job: one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Ruling Elders understand theology at a pragmatic level. This means faith in action. Sessions can be a place where people bring skills and gifts that are enhanced by their work experience, and apply them to the challenges of the church.

If we are going to have vibrant congregations in our presbytery, we need strong, knowledgeable, and faithful ruling elders on our sessions. These are the dynamic leaders our mission statement is calling for.

Leadership training, small group ministry, and stewardship training are just some educational opportunities our ruling elders should be a part of, along with our pastors. Creativity and innovative input from ruling elders on session is what will keep a congregation pushing for excellence in ministry, while expanding the work of mission in the world.

As we prepare for 2018, ruling elder training in each congregation is a must. We have resources in the presbytery office, as well as materials on the denomination’s website. Let’s make sure 2018 is the year ruling elders rule!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Presbyterian Family

 

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


Happy New Year!

In 2018 I invite, entreat, encourage, and request that each person in the presbytery step outside of their congregational box and get involved in an event, meeting, gathering, or worship service at the presbytery, synod, or national level. The opportunities are numerous, and the experience will change your thoughts and hearts about the health of our presbytery, and denomination.

GA 223 will be held in St. Louis, June 16 – 23. This is an excellent time to volunteer and be a part of the larger Presbyterian family. I’ve attended every GA in the past 18 years. As a Presbyterian, it is an experience that should not be missed.

In additional to this national event, 2018 will be an exciting and experimental year for our presbytery gatherings. The new Presbytery Planning Team is looking for creative ways for us to learn, fellowship, worship, and conduct cooperative business together. Our February 24 gathering will be held in conjunction with Faith365 at Webster Groves. The format will be different, and will include a nationally known plenary speaker, Brian McLaren. If you are not familiar with Brian, watch him here. In addition, there will be workshops on the topic Moving your passion from your heart to the world. The event is free for all commissioners (except lunch is $10). However, I am encouraging all members of sessions to attend as well. The price for session members will be discounted, and scholarships are available. I want everyone who feels the Spirit calling them to be present for these workshops and plenary, to be able to attend.

Finally, when was the last time you attended worship in our presbytery, outside of your congregations? Well, you will have many opportunities in January and February! There will be several pastor installations in the first two months of the year in Giddings-Lovejoy. The ordination and installation of a pastor is a presbytery event. All members of the presbytery are invited to attend and take part in the worship experience. It is so encouraging to the installed pastor and congregation when people from outside of their church are present, singing, praying, and letting them know we are a connected church. All services are listed on the presbytery calendar.

It is a joy to serve as your Transitional Presbytery Leader, and I look forward to writing, visiting, teaching, preaching, and just being with you in 2018!

Peace,

Rev. Craig M. Howard