Legacy Investment

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


On this second week of Easter, we are still living in the shadow of the resurrection. This is a time of hope and possibility. Spring is happening with rains, sunshine, flowers, and a greening of the area. In this context the West Administrative Commission (AC) is completing its work. One of the final steps is the Legacy Investment. Simply put, when a congregation in the presbytery comes to the end of its life, up to 50% of the net sale of the property can be reinvested in the community in which the congregation resides. Legacy investment is an opportunity for a congregation to experience resurrection by helping other missions do the work of ministry in the community.

One of the organizations West church is donating a Legacy Investment gift to is the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club summer youth program. This program keeps young people off of the streets while teaching them arts, good healthcare, music, and recreation. The program was struggling financially this year. When I called with the gift from West church, the phone line was filled with exclamations of joy! It was a moment of happiness and resurrection. Mission and ministry in the community will continue for these youth through the gift of West church.

Jerimiah wrote to the people in Babylonian exile to seek the peace of the city where they lived, “For in its peace, you will find your peace (Jer. 29:7).” A church is only as strong as the community that surrounds it. When our congregations are a part of local programs for youth, learning, feeding, etc. (the kinds of things we will be discussing at Saturday’s Presbytery Gathering) they are bringing wholeness and peace to the community. And I believe the community will respond with gratitude, thanks, and support.

For West, this means investing $70,000 in mission and ministry that is happening in the western edge of St. Louis, north of Delmar. The AC identified four programs to receive the funds. The list follows. Each organization is committed to a reciprocal relationship because true ministry is a gift exchange. They are looking forward to meeting members of Giddings-Lovejoy who desire to volunteer in their organizations. They will also attend our presbytery gatherings, keeping us informed and showing gratitude for our gifts. Thanks Be to God!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Organization Purpose Yearly Amount Total Years Total Gift
Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club Summer Youth Camp $5,000 4 $20,000
Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club Youth College Scholarships $5,000  4 $20,000
St. Louis MetroMarket Bus Access to healthy affordable food $5,000 3 $15,000
Monsanto Family YMCA Youth Swimming Classes $5,000 3 $15,000
Total       $70,000

Shattered

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


Easter morning we celebrated resurrection and Christ overcoming death and the grave. We also received the news of church bombings in Sri Lanka. Just two weeks ago I had lunch with Dr. Damayanthi Niles, professor of Constructive Theology and Minister of Word and Sacrament at Eden Theological Seminary. Damayanthi is from Shri Lanka. We were discussing missional ideas that can help shape the future vision of our presbytery. Damayanthi shared her experience of church growing up in Sri Lanka where Christianity is a minority religion (less than 9%). Her experience gives her a particular lens on American Christianity and Presbyterianism as we practice it. Damayanthi is not afraid of the decline we are experiencing in our denomination. She knows what it means not to be the dominant center of faith, but instead experience life as  God’s people in the midst of the people of God (This is an idea created by her father, Dr. D. Preman Niles). Beyond theology and mission, we discussed food, family, and home. When the news of the church bombs hit the airwaves on Easter morning, my heart shattered like the stained glass windows on the news feed video.

I reached out to Damayanthi pastorally, and to ask what the presbytery can do. She ministered to me instead. She shared reflections that help her to get through these difficult times. One is a song by Mark Miller, “I Choose Love.”

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain,
I await the sun again, I choose love.

In the midst of war, I choose peace.
In the midst of war, hate and anger keeping score,
I will seek the good once more, I choose peace.

When my world falls down, I will rise.
When my world falls down, explanations can’t be found,
I will climb to holy ground, I will rise.

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain,
I await the sun again, I choose love.

Let us pray for Shri Lanka, Damayanthi, and those touched by violence throughout the country and the world.

  • Indi Samarajiva, a Sri Lankan Buddhist, whose family was at church on Easter shares his thoughts. Click here.
  • A Lent perspective from Mark Miller, on his song, “I Choose Love” can be found here.
  • If you feel called to give financially to their recovery, that is made possible by the Sri Lankan Red Cross, found here. 

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Partners

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org



The fire at Notre Dame cathedral in France is dramatic and tragic. The response ranges from sadness to singing. The cathedral has transcended its original purpose and is an embodiment of French culture and history. This is the place where emperors were crowned, and royalty is buried. The cathedral receives over 12 million visitors each year. I visited the cathedral as a teenager. I understood then how a church building can create awe and wonder as it transports the human spirit into the presence of the Almighty. Now the cathedral is faced with a monumental rebuilding effort. French President Emmanuel Macron remarked in his commitment to rebuilding the cathedral, “It’s part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years.”

How does a church building become part of the fabric of a community? When does sacred space become public space: a place of intersection between insiders and outsiders where all feel ownership and community?

At the May 4 Presbytery Gathering, we will have a workshop from Robert Jaeger, president of Partners for Sacred Spaces. Robert will invite congregations to envision themselves as space that is both holy and part of the community. Their website says “Partners for Sacred Places lives at the intersection of heritage, faith, and community. Partners’ staff brings a wide variety of skills and backgrounds, grounded in a passion for the value of historic sacred places as valuable community assets (https://sacredplaces.org).” Partners will help the presbytery look for congregations that are seeking ways to use their building as community space. Their goal is for 80% of weekly traffic and activity in a church building be non-membership related.

Partners is not for everyone. But the concept introduces a conversation in the presbytery about the meaning of evangelism, and how a congregation perceives those outside of their doors. Are those outside resources seen as people a church can use to increase its membership and help with financial support? Or, are they outsiders in need of what the church can provide? Is the role of the church to turn these outsiders into insiders? Or are they also people who seek God in a variety of different ways, and we should seek to partner with them to do God’s will in the world? What happens when those on the inside go out, and the church is translated into God’s kingdom in the world?

We will wrestle with the idea of church buildings, evangelism, and justice for the remainder of the year. This will include conversations, workshops, Presbytery Gatherings and events around poverty, race, hunger, and congregational vibrancy. We will see how all of these factors inform evangelism.

2019 is shaping up to be an exciting time in the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy! I am so glad you are a part of this work and ministry of God through your thoughts, prayers, and actions.

Blessings this Holy Week and Easter season.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Between the Towers

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


After the last Vision Team meeting, Rev. Rob Dyer, Pastor of Bellville United, sent me a suggestion to have a “Church 2060 event.” Rob challenged me to think about what the church would look like in 2060, 40 years from now. The next week, I was in Philadelphia meeting with a group of presbytery executives. We convened at a downtown Presbyterian church in City Center. This church sat between the headquarters of Comcast. These two glass buildings- each will be over 56 stories when completed—have cutting edge design and technology. We went in one building and watched the 2000 square foot, high-definition LED presentation on the history of communication. It was so realistic I thought the people were present! We had lunch in the other tower. I saw people connecting their phones and devices to jacks located on tables, walls, and other furniture. For lunch in the café, I had a salad where the romaine lettuce heart was grilled, then cheese was melted with a blow torch, before the figs were added! In addition, my fellow EPs and I were the oldest people in the room!

The church in the middle is struggling. They do not have a Presbyterian pastor, but rather, a pastor who has an excellent spirit of hospitality. The worship attendance has gotten to be 60 in a sanctuary that seats several hundred. It is a huge structure with many needed repairs. For example, there is a beautiful antique oven in the kitchen, but it doesn’t work.

So, what is the future of the church between the two towers? Where will it be in 40 or 50 years? Perhaps the church I saw in Philly is symbolic of the Presbyterian denomination in our society. On one side we have the tower of racial ethnic change with the browning of America. On the other side we have the tower of irrelevance: a disconnect with the values of post-modernity including gender, sexuality, and environmentalism. The future of the church must take these towering issues into consideration.

More importantly, the future is one of a blended reality without heavy lines drawn to determine who is in and who is out.

In Philadelphia, on one side of the church (an obvious new addition) is completely glass to match the tower. It is hard to tell where the church ends and the tower begins. This is a good sign. The church of the future will need to have boundaries that are porous and less rigid. Perhaps it should be made of more transparent glass and less stone and brick. It may be that people will then feel as much a part of the church in the center, as they do to their office in the tower.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Presbytery Practices: In the Neighborhood

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


Last week, all five members of the presbytery staff packed up a day’s worth of work, computers, and snacks and traveled down south to Cape Girardeau for a day “In the Neighborhood.” We have traveled and worked together on several occasions with presbytery gatherings and leadership retreats, but this was different, and I could feel the excitement in the air as I drove down Interstate 55.  “In the Neighborhood” was an intentional team effort to be present to presbytery members in a distinct way – to take our hands and feet into the very geographical regions to which normally only one or two of the staff travels. Normally, our members from these regions travel to us and it was only fair that we travel to them also.

Not only did we take our physical selves into the area, but we took our presbytery practices also.  Over the last year and ½, I have come to recognize and appreciate the spiritual practices embodied by the staff as they carry out their work. Although we do not talk about “presbytery practices,” there are certain perspectives and actions that provide a rhythm to our lives as we work together as people called to serve God, presbytery members, our communities, and each other.

Using those practices, we spent Wednesday evening meeting with teaching and ruling elders and commissioned pastors who had particular situations that needed to be discussed. Thursday we rotated between working on office tasks and greeting visitors. We also called others serving in pastoral leadership roles to check-in with them and offered to pray for them as prompted by the Spirit. Since the next presbytery gathering is at First Cape Girardeau, Leigh and Joy toured the church site with the pastor to discuss the gathering checklist and discuss ways to ensure that the gathering goes as smoothly as possible. Our time there was a joy. Taking the office out into the presbytery was a good idea and if we continue to be guided by the same presbytery practices that we embody in the office in Creve Coeur, I believe we will continue the good work of deepening our connectional ties and strengthening our cords of friendship in ways that will move us closer to the ideal of the Beloved Kindom that God has called us to embody.

Here are the Rules of Life which govern our steps and actions as Giddings-Lovejoy staff:

  • Remembering that we are the Body of Christ called to be a light to the world in tangible and practical ways.
  • Paying attention when others contact us with particular needs, concerns, and questions and responding in an appropriate and caring manner.
  • Praying for others as we learn of their concerns, conflicts, and grief.
  • Listening and learning from others who take the time to share with us and inform our work as staff and colleagues and being appreciative of their wisdom.
  • Breaking bread together as a community of friends and colleagues, thus taking the time to get to know each other beyond the work of the presbytery.
  •  Laughing with and loving all of God’s creation.
  •  Going where God sends us with the right spirit and with an open heart while accepting that things won’t go always as planned, but the experience will give us guidance for next steps.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins