Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Memory of Carl Dudley

I never met Carl Dudley. But when my email popped up with a Presbyterian News article announcing his death, a deep sadness filled my heart. This is a man who wrote a book that was a very significant source of inspiration and encouragement for me in the very first years of my ministry. After reading the short article (Presbyterian News Service, number 09338, April 24, 2009) I pulled my copy of Making the Small Church Effective, (Abingdon Press, 1978) down off my bookshelf. This is not a book I have looked at for many years, but as I paged through it quickly I felt again the power with which this book blessed my ministry. As with all my books, the year I first read it is written in the front cover: 1982. That was my first year of seminary and this book was one of the required texts in our Introduction to Ministry course.

After graduation in 1985, I started ministry in a very small, rural congregation in Kiskiminetas Presbytery. I remember those first years of ministry with great fondness. I remember most of all the profound graciousness of this family church that took me in as one of their own and literally taught me how to be a pastor. They poured out hospitality, kindness, and tolerance for the young, new minister who had all the academic answers and none of the life experience to be a pastor. Indeed, in the first years of my professional ministry we created, by the grace of God and the amazing tolerant and accepting love of the congregation, a very effective ministry.

But there were many dark days in those first years of ministry; days when isolation and loneliness burdened at my heart. On Thursday mornings when I tried to write yet another sermon, or on Monday mornings when I sat quietly wondering what exactly I should do with my time all week, I often pulled this little Dudley book off the shelf and read through it again. That a “professor of church and community at McCormick Theological Seminary,” as the back cover proclaimed, would have bothered to write a book about the tiny, isolated church where I found myself serving was an idea that itself inspired me. Somehow, just the fact that this book existed with its focus on and celebration of small churches, encouraged me. “Truly, I am not alone!” Furthermore, that such a small church could and should actually be “effective” was like a fount of divine inspiration for me.

So I type out here Dudley’s eloquent description of small church as family. This is my own heritage and history. Deep down in my heart, there is an abiding love and affection for small, family churches:

“To understand our small church, we begin with the feelings of the members. When asked, members show a strong sense of ownership and deep feelings of belonging. ‘This is our church,’ they say. Members do not begin with apologies or comparisons, unless they are implied because the questioner comes from a larger congregation. For members, the small church is not ‘small is beautiful,’ or ‘small is quality,’ or ‘small but anything.’ Members have a strong, positive attitude toward belonging, because it is a significant experience in their lives. Some ‘members’ are not active in programs, or even in regular attendance on Sunday. They may participate only on special occasions and attend only for annual events. Some such members are not even listed on the rolls of the church, but it remains ‘our church’ to them. They have remained with the church despite other alluring alternatives. In times of crisis for the congregation, they have rallied with support. In the crises of their personal families, the congregation has surrounded them with care and concern. Belonging to the church is like being a member of the family.”
(Dudley, Making the Small Church Effective, page 29)

Thanks be to God for the life, witness and ministry of Professor Carl Dudley.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Characteristics of a missional congregation.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Our missional church study group has been intentionally reading and discussing missional theology for several years. We recently finished working through one of the seminal and early works in missional thinking: Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. I want to highlight the image of a missional congregation which Newbigin outlines in Chapter 18, “The Congregation as a Hermeneutic of the Gospel.” As I regularly visit the churches in our presbytery, I see many glimpses of these characteristics. I believe Newbigin has captured in his six, short descriptions the basic outline of what a missional congregation may look like. These characteristics may inspire good conversation in our congregations as we continue to explore new directions in ministry and mission.

It will be a community of praise (page 227). Then, too, the Church’s praise includes thanksgiving. The Christian congregation meets as a community that acknowledges that it lives by the amazing grace of a boundless kindness (page 228).

Second, it will be a community of truth (page 228) A Christian congregation is a community in which, through the constant remembering and rehearsing of the true story of human nature and destiny, an attitude of healthy skepticism can be sustained, a skepticism which enables one to take part in the life of society without being bemused and deluded by its own beliefs about itself (page 229).

Third, it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of the neighborhood (page 229).

Fourth, it will be a community where men and women are prepared for and sustained in the exercise of the priesthood in the world. The Church is described in the New Testament as a royal priesthood, called to ‘offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’ and ‘to declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (I Peter 2: 5,9) (page 229 – 230).

Fifth, it will be a community of mutual responsibility. If the Church is to be effective in advocating and achieving a new social order in the nation, it must itself be a new social order (page 231).

And, finally it will be a community of hope (page 232).

May it be so in our churches.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Presbyterian Missionaries!

The article is copied from Presbyterian News Service; February 17, 2009.

A dozen new Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) international mission personnel attended orientation in January and have begun their international assignments or will begin them in coming weeks.

The Rev. Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson will serve in Peru as delegations and partnerships coordinators. They will organize, coordinate, and translate for Presbyterians visiting from the United States, helping to ensure that these visits reflect the mutual mission priorities of the partner churches. They will serve at the invitation of the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Peru.

A minister member of the Santa Fe Presbytery, Sara was associate pastor for mission and pastoral care at Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, NM, prior to entering mission service. She also has served two bilingual Presbyterian congregations in New Mexico and Colorado and three churches in Ohio. Her experience also includes service as a chaplain at Menaul School in Albuquerque and as executive director of a faith-based charity.
Sara earned an undergraduate degree from Smith College in Northampton, MA, and a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Rusty founded Zapata Builders, LLC, a commercial construction company, and SimpleVentures, a marketing/investment firm, in Colorado and New Mexico. Prior to that, he worked in the maintenance and interpretive divisions of the National Park Service. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University, where he studied agricultural engineering. Rusty is a member of Alamosa (CO) Presbyterian Church.They will arrive in Peru in March.

Alexandra Buck is project facilitator for Bridge of Hope, a fair trade project developed in 2005 by the Joining Hands network in Peru. Joining Hands is a program of the Presbyterian Hunger Program that addresses the root causes of hunger through networks of churches and grassroots organizations in developing countries. The networks are also linked to PC(USA) presbyteries and congregations that support the networks’ struggle against hunger.

Buck facilitates a fair trade bridge between artisans in Peru and consumers in the United States. The availability of new markets has significantly increased the income of the Peruvian artisans.
Prior to her mission appointment, Buck was a young adult intern with the Presbyterian U.N. Office. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Hispanic and international studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and is a member of West Granville Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, WI.

Amanda Craft is serving in Guatemala, where her assignment focuses on women’s leadership development. Her work in Guatemala is at the invitation of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala.

Craft enters mission service after working for eight years as an associate for education and advocacy for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. From 1999 to 2000 she was a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program in Guatemala. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Denison University in Granville, OH. She is a member of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville.
Craft is married to Omar Alexander Chan Giron, who accompanies her in her ministry in Guatemala.

The Rev. David Diercksen is serving along the border between the United States and Mexico at Puentes de Cristo, one of six sites of the Presbyterian Border Ministry. Puentes de Cristo’s work is concentrated along Mexico’s northeastern boundary with the United States.
The Presbyterian Border Ministry is a joint ministry between the PC(USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. Diercksen is the U.S. coordinator for the Puentes De Cristo site.
Working closely with his Mexican Presbyterian counterpart, Diercksen will facilitate the work of the numerous mission teams that visit the border region each year.

A minister member of Pittsburgh Presbytery, Diercksen has served congregations in Pennsylvania, New York and Maine. Most recently he was pastor and head of staff at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

Diercksen earned a bachelor’s degree from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ, and a Master of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Diercksen is being accompanied by his wife, Nadine, in his new ministry.

Dr. John and Gwenda Fletcher will serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo. John, a physician, will work at the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai. A major part of his assignment is to help form a network of support and collaboration among all the Presbyterian Community of Congo’s mission hospitals. He will also teach medical residents, medical students and nursing students. Gwenda will work as an education consultant with the Presbyterian Community of Congo.

The Fletchers previously served in the Congo from 1989 to 2002. Both of them grew up in India as children of Presbyterian mission workers.

John is a graduate of the University of Washington, where he received both his undergraduate and medical degrees. Gwenda holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, and a master’s degree in special education from Portland State University.

Both are ordained elders and members of First Presbyterian Church, Yuma, AZ. They will arrive in Congo in April after completing language study.

The Rev. Brenda Harcourt is a leadership trainer for the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kenya. She works in the eastern and Mt. Kenya regions to help improve the leadership skills of both clergy and lay leaders.

Harcourt's assignment in Kenya is her second appointment as a PC(USA) mission worker. From 1989 to 1991 she was a seminary instructor in Ghana, serving with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.

Immediately prior to her new mission appointment, Harcourt was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Oregon, IL. She also has been pastor of a congregation in Pennsylvania, a conference center director and a chaplain.

Harcourt holds a bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in Millersville, PA, and a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, PA.

Jed Koball is serving in Peru with Joining Hands as a companionship facilitator. He will be facilitating the relationship between the Peruvian network, Uniendo Manos Contra Pobreza (Joining Hands Against Poverty) and PC(USA) congregations.

Koball served as a Young Adult Volunteer in the Philippines from 1996 to 1997. Prior to re-entering mission service, he was interim associate pastor at Larchmont Presbyterian Church in Larchmont, NY. He also has worked in Nicaragua with Bridges to Community, a not-for-profit community development organization.

Koball earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, NC, and a master’s in theology from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Nancy McGaughey works in Sudan as a health coordinator with the Association of Christian Resource Organizations Serving Sudan (ACROSS). She serves at the invitation of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, the PC(USA)’s partner in southern Sudan.

McGaughey, a registered nurse, brings 15 years of mission experience to her assignment in Sudan. She worked in Nepal from 1987 to 2002 as a PC(USA) mission worker and from 1977 to 1980 with the Peace Corps. Most recently she has worked at Clare Medical Center in Crawfordville, IN. She is a member of Russellville Community Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ in Russellville, IN.

She holds an associate’s degree in nursing from Indiana University, a bachelor’s degree in vocational home economics from Purdue University, and a master’s in vocational and technical education from Purdue.

The Rev. Stacey Steck is serving in Costa Rica as associate for congregational growth and development with the Costa Rican Presbyterian Church. He also will assist U.S. Presbyterians who travel to Costa Rica on mission trips and serve as half-time pastor of an English-speaking congregation, Escazu Christians Fellowship.

Steck has been living in Costa Rica since 2006, serving the EscazĂș Christian Fellowship. Prior to moving to Costa Rica, he was stated supply pastor and head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in St. Cloud, MN.

Steck holds a B.A. degree from the American University in Washington, DC, and an M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is a minister member of Minnesota Valleys Presbytery.
Nathaniel Veltman is a development consultant with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. He will be working with the five synods of the church in the western region of the country in a variety of development projects.

Nathaniel Veltman is a development consultant with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. He will be working with the five synods of the church in the western region of the country in a variety of development projects.

Veltman recently received a master’s degree in international development from the University of Pittsburgh. His undergraduate degree is from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. While a student, he participated in service opportunities in Ghana and Malawi. Veltman is a member of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh