The variety in our service together regularly surprises me. A few vignettes from the last week of March should give you an idea.
A Taste of a Recent Week
— A few Sundays ago (March 26), several of us helped install Rev. Huong “Cedar” Dang as Senior Pastor of the Vietnamese Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove. The day was extraordinary. Cedar’s installation reflects the patient work and careful judgment of the congregation’s leadership. It also reflects the steady support of the Committee on Ministry and members of the office staff over several years. As one of their Session members told me on Sunday, “You did not tell us what to do. You gave us the support we needed to make the right decision.” Their action consummated a remarkable adventure in faith: no woman before her has become a Senior Pastor to a Vietnamese church in the PC(USA).
— On the two days surrounding Cedar’s installation (March 25 and 27), I partnered with an Administrative Commission to perform the annual Review of Session Records. Dozens of Clerks of Session gathered to read each other’s minutes. Clerks are a conscientious bunch, but I don’t know any who particularly like the task. We do it to minimize the risk of liability each congregation would otherwise face.
— After the Review of Records on March 25, I assisted in Rev. Michael Haggin’s memorial service. It was a lovely event. The seven people who eulogized him both loved him and held no illusions about his quirks. Two hundred people, including many fellow members of the Presbytery, laughed with affection and carried each other in the struggle that comes from losing someone unexpectedly.
— Finally, two days earlier (March 23), I acted as “client” to the Committee of Counsel at a trial before the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission. The trial had arisen out of the Presbytery’s vote a year ago to dismiss La Habra Hills Presbyterian Church with its property. The Committee of Counsel and I have logged over one hundred hours preparing for the trial. We will have still more work carrying out the PJC’s instructions.
As I look at these four examples, I am struck not only by the variety of the work but by the variety of its gravity. Some responsibilities give us entrance into profound moments of faith. Earth and heaven come close and our hair stands up on the back of our necks. And other responsibilities just feel like doing the dishes.
Work the Presbytery Accomplishes Together
Yet all four examples above are just that—examples. Through your time, energy and generosity, the forty-five congregations of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos accomplish ministry that no one congregation could do alone.
— We are guiding two New Church Developments to charter within the next year.
— Seven worshiping fellowships reach people whose primary language is not English.
—Two evangelistic ministries proclaim good news to people who would never think of visiting a traditional church.
— Two mission hubs coordinate programs to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people in center-city Long Beach and Los Angeles. A consortium provides pastoral care to patients at the LAC+USC Medical Center.
— We are establishing a “nursery” through which we hope to identify and develop effective church planters.
And don’t forget the regular support the staff provides your congregations during times of transition and crisis. In 2016, about half of the congregations in Los Ranchos faced some sort of struggle. Just under thirty percent of my time—seven hundred hours—went directly to one congregation or another. And I am not unique among the Presbytery staff.
Why We Need You:
Flourishing ministries, both new and old, require good infrastructure. The great majority of our staff time goes not to self-perpetuating “operations,” but to enabling the work I have mentioned above. Sometimes it is tedious work, and sometimes it is filled with joy and awe. But all of it is necessary.
And all of it requires funding. Some will come from per capita (which I discussed last month). Some will come from income on our investments. And the rest will come from voluntary mission gifts from you and your churches.
So if any of the examples you have read here make you think, “Yes, the Holy Spirit is working through Los Ranchos Presbytery,” then please remember that such work comes through the financial support of partners in ministry. Whether you have decision-making authority over your own budget or that of a congregation, consider beginning a mission contribution or increasing your current one to allow our common work to continue.
Somewhere along the Way—