• Airplane Seats and a Cross-Shaped Life[1]


    By the time you read this, I will be in St. Louis for the annual meeting of Presbyterian bureaucrats. Officers and staff of General Assembly, synods, and presbyteries will gather to talk about everything from the future of ministry to child protection policies. But first, we will have to fly to get there. I hate flying. When the person in front of me leans back, I can no longer use my laptop effectively. If you … Read More

  • Back to School


    The season of fall always reminds me of going back to school, though it has been more than a few decades since I was ‘officially’ a student. But we as a presbytery see ourselves as being a ‘learning community’ – so, in a sense, perhaps we should always be ‘going back to school’ as we do faith and life together. With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve been learning recently, thanks to … Read More

  • What I Learned at the Pigs’ Trough


    I grew up in a large family. At least I thought I did until the Goodbody family came to dinner. They had eleven children and we only had seven. But four brothers and two sisters still seemed like a lot to me. When you came into our family’s kitchen there was a long, wooden table that stretched across the room to the kitchen sink. Tucked underneath its far edge was a bench for seven. On … Read More

  • Recharging Our Deep Wells


    Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were … Read More

  • David Dolan Health Update


    Dear Friends & Colleagues of Los Ranchos Presbytery, It was 20 years ago that I began my position as the Associate Executive Presbyter for Resource Development, Mission Interpretation and Social Justice for the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. Since I left that role in 2009, I have thought of you all often and the wonderful time we had together, especially our fruitful ministry and partnership with our brothers and sisters in Kenya. I’ve had some ups … Read More

  • A Mighty, Mighty Los Ranchos


    My older brother was the first to play high school football, so we four younger brothers idolized him. I remember packing into the family station wagon and driving to his night games. I couldn’t wait to get there. It was all so exciting – the smell of hotdogs and cotton candy rising from the snack bar, the band playing rally songs, and the roar of the crowd when a big play was made. As young … Read More

  • Sabbath-Keeping, the Year of Jubilee, and a Presbytery Anniversary


    I had an “A-Ha” moment the other day. Or maybe it was more like a “Duh” moment. I’ll let you decide. I was talking with a minister member about her six years of service on CPM.[1] I observed that by now she probably needed a rest. That is when I had my A-Ha: Six years and then a rest! Just like in the Bible! The Sabbath Year Most of you are probably familiar with the … Read More

  • 153 Fishes


    Capital campaigns are rarely ‘exciting’ in the life of the church – especially not when they are for needed repairs, maintenance and upgrades. But don’t tell that to Gus Altuzarra and the other members of Laguna Presbyterian Church. “We’d been on this capital campaign to refurbish the sanctuary since about 2010,” Gus explained. The church took out a ten-year mortgage to pay off the construction loan, and was about seven years in. “We decided that … Read More

  • Why I’m Partial to Being Impartial


    “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it” (Matthew 8:9). “Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its order?” (Book of Order, W-4.4003e). About a month ago I joined La Habra Hills PC for Sunday worship. The congregation’s … Read More

  • When God Shares His Footstool


    We don’t have a footstool in our house. That’s okay because most of our furniture is “motion furniture” anyway. It doesn’t matter where you sit, a footstool pops up whenever you push a lever. So, in truth, we have footstools everywhere, thanks to LA-Z-Boy. In our generation, we think of footstools as a symbol of relaxation, but in ancient times they were symbols of power, and were often associated with the throne of a king … Read More

  • Rodger Nishioka Speaks at Presbytery

    Rodger Nishika
  • Meet Our New Director of Cyclical, Neema Cyrus-Franklin

    Neema Cyrus-Franklin, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, has been a Presbyterian all her life. But, she says, there was a point at which she made the choice to continue that on her own. “The Presbyterian Church is a place where I have grown, have been given a voice, and have been given the chance to lead,” she shared. It is a place that she also wants to help see grow as well, part of … Read More

  • What’s Our Potlatch?

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    Since last September I have discussed the challenges of being financially faithful in Southern California. This month I plan to conclude the series. As a quick review: 1. High housing costs, cultural pressure to appear successful, and perceived scarcity make it difficult for Southern Californians to delight in God’s ways regarding money. 2. We counter the difficulties by (a) giving the first ten percent of our income (b) to the church structures to which we … Read More

  • Not Just Talk: Conversations that Work


    One of the books I read this spring while I was on study leave with my learning cohort was Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser. I didn’t suggest it; one of my colleagues did. I thought to myself, “Sheesh, if we are not good at conversations by now, I think we should find another profession!” But, as often is the case when we think we know it all, I discovered that there was so much more … Read More

  • Grab My Hand

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    Every eye in the room was focused on Tamara as she began to share her story, “I’ve had my life threatened twice. There are people there who are very angry, and I’m there to break through the barrier with the love of Jesus Christ…When I say, ‘Grab my hand’ to someone who is struggling emotionally or spiritually, it’s not just my hand they are grabbing. They are grabbing a hand with the full weight of … Read More

  • A Week in the Life: From the Mundane to the Profound


    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 … Read More

  • Looking Toward the May Presbytery Gathering


    The Presbytery Gathering Team is thrilled to announce that Rodger Nishioka will be the featured speaker at the May 25th Presbytery Gathering at Community Presbyterian Church in La Mirada. Dr. Nishioka will be addressing Los Rancho’s vision of being a “community of flourishing congregations.” Rodger, a winsome, engaging, thoughtful, and thought-provoking speaker is Director of Adult Educational Ministries at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Born in Honolulu and raised in Seattle at the … Read More

  • A Historic Event

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    Forrest Claassen calls Cedar, “selfless, humble, brave.” Tom Cramer adds, “she is a beautiful example of God at work through a ‘clay jar’ open to his Spirit.” On Sunday, March 26th, Cedar made history. When Rev. Huong Dang, affectionately nicknamed “Cedar”, was installed at the Vietnamese Presbyterian Church in Garden Grove, California, she became the first female senior pastor of a Vietnamese-language congregation in the PCUSA. After the ceremony, Cedar expressed her gratitude by saying, … Read More

  • Fostering Ambitious Humility


    Last week, I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with a friend. He had shared with me multiple times how much the program means to him and how it has completely transformed his life. Although he is a Christian, and attends church regularly, he said that there is something about his AA group that makes it as much as a spiritual home for him as his own church. Because I was interested in why he would … Read More

  • Per Capita: Why Do We Do This?


    At the pastors’ retreat in mid-February, the Synod Executive handed me a check for funeral expenses from my fellow Presbyters. When I told my recently widowed brother, I loved watching his puzzled face awaken with understanding. Your love for me—and really, our love for each other—took specific shape. It was a financial reminder of a spiritual covenant. That reminder is a microcosm of the PC(USA). Some of you have recently asked about our per capita. … Read More

  • The Journey of Village


    Sunday, March 19, 5 PM San Clemente Presbyterian Church RSVP Michael Moynagh, author of Church for Every Context, observed that in experiments “there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.” In September of 2002, Rev. Steve Wright was sent to Ladera Ranch to begin work on a new project with the hope of establishing a Presbyterian Church in this community. Village Presbyterian Church (also known as Common Villages) was present here for almost 700 … Read More

  • A Different Kind of Preaching Event


    SCORRE Conference May 1-4, 2017 San Clemente Presbyterian Church For over 30 years I have been involved with the SCORRE Conference for public speaking and preaching. It is the parent organization to the two-day Spanish Conference we hosted in November here at San Clemente Presbyterian Church. I am thrilled because for the first time the full four-day conference will be right here in Southern California. (The second Spanish SCORRE Conference will be held May 5-6.) … Read More

  • Challenge – met!


    Congratulations, presbytery! As of this writing almost all of your Los Ranchos Challenge goals have been met! This includes money dedicated to:      –Helping the elderly ‘become more alive’ by connecting them with youth – and helping youth to develop empathy and connection      –Helping to feed more than 24,000 individuals in Long Beach who are homeless      –Providing hot showers – and hospitality toward the forgotten in Garden Grove      –Accessible playgrounds that allow … Read More

  • Did You Know?


    Did you know that the Presbytery of Los Ranchos is one-fifth Korean? (9 of 45 congregations) Did you know that during any given week, more than 8 different languages are used in worship within our presbytery? Did you know that at our February 25th Presbytery Gathering we will, for the first time, provide simultaneous translation of the business meeting into Korean? What a gift this is for our presbytery, to be one body with many … Read More

  • From Merry-Go-Rounds to Flywheels: How Los Ranchos is Going from “Good to Great”

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    Back in the day, almost every park had a spinning platform called a “merry-go-round.” The object was to get the platform spinning as fast as you could by running alongside it while holding a bar that separated its slots. Then, in one courageous move, you would jump onto the platform and feel the forces of physics take over. If you were really bold, you might attempt one of your favorite moves, like holding on one-handed … Read More

  • Thank You


    I love the PCUSA. How often does your organizational headquarters send a regional flunkie a sympathy card with lots of handwritten love notes? Made me cry, you beautiful people (Karen Claassen, Facebook, January 23, 2017) Many of you have heard by now of the sudden death of my nephew and sister-in-law. My brother Gary, his wife Polly, and their eight-year-old son Trent were vacationing in Kansas with my extended family during the first week of … Read More

  • Advancing with Dr. William Pannell


    Saturday, February 25th, 11 AM San Clemente Presbyterian Church Flyer Promo Video At our next Gathering, on Saturday, February 25th, 11 AM, our Presbytery has the privilege of hearing Dr. Pannell speak on the topic of “Living Joyfully in a Divided World” at San Clemente Presbyterian Church. I have no doubt you will hear a number of my favorite phrases from him including, “Can I get an Amen?” and “Mercy” but, even more so, I … Read More

  • Looking Out the Window


    When I was 12 years old, my parents thought it was a good idea to camp through Europe with their five younger children. That meant five children under the age of thirteen riding in the back of a Volkswagen campervan for an entire month. After one week of non-stop brawling, with arms and legs flying everywhere, and my parents valiantly trying to keep the van steady while driving, they did what any reasonable parents would … Read More

  • Ten Percent Giving: A Joyful Feast


      “Someone told me with great amazement that so-and-so gives a tithe. How shameful it is that what was taken for granted among the Jews has now become an amazing thing among Christians” (John Chrysostom, 4th century).[1] Over the past several months here I have sought to navigate the waters of faithful finances, even in a place as demanding as Southern California. I hope to have helped you “recapture a Scriptural understanding of money and … Read More

  • Pursuing Excellence In Communication for Spanish Speakers


    It had been a dream of mine for over ten years. For thirty plus years I have been part of a national ministry called SCORRE Conference, formerly Dynamic Communicator’s Workshops. It equips men and women to communicate with clarity, focus, and power. My particular interest has been preaching but I have had the privilege of coaching many other kinds of speakers and communicators. It has been the most influential experience in my own pursuit of … Read More

  • Beyond Voluntary Giving


    Last month’s column generated an animated conversation among the e-News editorial board. We agreed that our first fruits belong to God (see my October column). But in November I argued that, according to Scripture, those first fruits belonged to God through the structures of worship. In Israel’s time, that meant the Temple system; in our time, the church. Not everyone agreed. Our discussion gradually turned toward, “Why should someone give to the Presbytery? Is it … Read More

  • The Avocado Tree


    As a boy growing up with four brothers, fighting was an everyday occurrence. It didn’t help matters that we were all about the same size and shared a communal shelving unit in our laundry room upon which we stored our clothes. Part of our morning ritual was to get up early and grab the best outfit for school. Unfortunately, more times than you would think, you would find another set of hands on the same … Read More

  • A Story of Hope


    Last month I had the opportunity to go on a family trip to Italy. Here I am in the Coliseum with my brother, Ron. Like every tourist, the biggest challenge I faced was how to get my souvenirs back to the United States. That’s where this backpack comes in. All my clothes would fit into a small suitcase. All the souvenirs would fit into the backpack. At first, the backpack worked like a charm. I … Read More

  • A Life Worthy of Her Calling


    By Cheryl Raine Are you more aware of what you are thankful for, given that as a nation we just paused to celebrate Thanksgiving? Well, I am exceedingly thankful for the Rev. Ngoc-Houng “Cedar” Dang who recently moved from the position of Associate Pastor to the position of Pastor/Head of Staff of the Vietnamese Presbyterian Church (VPC) of Garden Grove. I have worked side by side in ministry with Pastor Cedar, beginning while she was … Read More

  • Giving Tuesday


    The Presbyterian Foundation has partnered with the Presbyterian Mission Agency to support #GivingTuesday on Nov. 29, when the world comes together to celebrate generosity and provide an opportunity for people to give more, give smarter and give great. With religious organizations receiving 40 percent of all donations on #GivingTuesday, the Foundation is using the security and reliability of the Presbyterian Mission Exchange to bring focus to several Presbyterian ministries and Mission Exchange partners, as well … Read More

  • Shower Plus Ministry Going Strong


    By Cheryl Raine             Apostle Paul’s word to the church at Ephesus ring true when it comes to the Shower Plus Ministry (SPM) at the First Presbyterian Church of Garden Grove (FPCGG), “To God – whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine!” What started with a simple shower for a man named Alan Bartley in October of 2011 has blossomed into a ministry that continues to … Read More

  • Farfegnugen


    It started as a casual conversation, as such things often do. I’m not sure who brought it up, but I posed the, shall we say, awkward question. “Why should people give to the presbytery? In today’s world, where so many of the ‘givens’ – like ‘if we put a church on the corner people will come worship with us on Sunday mornings’ – are no longer so ‘given,’ how do we answer that question? In … Read More

  • Why First-Fruits Giving is Good for Your Soul and the Church


    We may donate our second and third fruits where and how we please, but our first fruits belong to the church. More particularly, they belong to our congregations, our presbyteries, or our denomination. How have I reached that conclusion? Last month I observed that first-fruit giving defies our rational expectations. When we give away more, we do not have less. Instead, we flourish. I can attest to that in my own life and in the … Read More

  • Dr. Mark Roberts to Speak at Annual Pastors Retreat


    February 15-17, 2016 Serra Retreat Center, Malibu Register Fellow colleagues in Los Ranchos: We invite you to sign up for the 2017 edition of the Los Ranchos Presbytery Pastors’ Retreat, scheduled for February 15-17, 2017. Once again we will be gathering at Serra Retreat in Malibu and we will be joined by a number of other pastors from neighboring presbyteries as word has gotten out that this event is “where it’s at” as we used … Read More

  • In Pursuit of Financial Freedom


                      Last month I raised the challenge of financial faithfulness: “…the task before us is to recapture a Scriptural understanding of money and then put that understanding into practice, even as the realities of life in Southern California whisper that we are fools for trying.” How, then, are we to find release from the Southern Californian predicament? Scripture’s answer begins with the principle of first fruits.[1] Financial … Read More

  • From Oprah to Belhar: The “Why” behind the “What”


    I’ve made a big deal lately about supportive partnerships and their power to sustain spiritual, physical, and societal transformation. I realize now that I’ve written and spoken about the “what” without saying too much about the “why.” So, I thought I’d take a moment and give you a glimpse into my thought process, as orthodox as it may seem. When I reflect on our mission on earth as disciples and congregations, I think most about … Read More

  • Vegetables for Breakfast


    Millions of people do it every morning. The French do it. The Thai do it. And, I’ve noticed, many athletes do it, too. They eat vegetables for breakfast. I didn’t think I could ever get used to the idea myself, especially with my penchant for Sausage McMuffins and warmed cinnamon rolls, but my friend and I looked at each other last March and decided to do something about our potbellies. We were tired of carrying … Read More

  • The Experience of Relative Deprivation

    Young Woman Showing Jealous Friend Engagement Ring

    Last week I celebrated my three-year anniversary with the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. The move meant a shift both from congregational ministry to presbytery leadership and also from the rural Pacific Northwest to Southern California. Each new place I’ve lived has required me to learn discipleship afresh. Each time we move, we must figure out how to be faithful there, not just generally. Each place has new challenges with unique local realities. Finances always top … Read More

  • Triumph in a Glass of Wine

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    So hope for a great sea-change On the far side of revenge. Believe that further shore Is reachable from here. Believe in miracleAnd cures and healing wells.             —Seamus Heaney, “The Cure At Troy” [1] Only by choosing not to return evil for evil will we heal the ills of our world. On the Thursday of the Republican National Convention, a six-year-old sang a medley that began, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let … Read More

  • Presbytery Council Takes a Step Toward Healing


    Once, when my family was deep in the heart of Mexico, my wife cut her leg on the wood bedframe that protruded from beneath our mattress. She didn’t make a big deal about it, so I didn’t pay much attention at first. Later that day, I asked if I could take a look. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The cut was actually a deep gash, at least an inch-and-half wide that went all the … Read More

  • The 222nd General Assembly (2016): A Few Thoughts, Three Days Later


    Forrest ClaassenLeader for Polity and AdministrationPresbytery of Los Ranchos     I’m writing three days after the 222nd General Assembly adjourned. I don’t have a penetrating analysis of GA for you (yet). But I do have some observations.    1. The system is rigged. But not in the way you might think. I have occasionally heard accusations that GA is rigged to produce foreordained outcomes. The most common complaint focuses around a committee moderator’s denying … Read More

  • A Glorious Celebration


    The 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA) was a glorious celebration of the wider church. It was also historical. The Assembly approved the Confession of Belhar  to be included in our Book of Confessions, ending years of conversation on the church’s role in reconciliation, race relations, and peacemaking. There was hardly a dry eye in the convention center when it passed. Also historical, was the first election of women co-moderators, one of them a 37-year … Read More

  • Clayton Cobb on Changes to the Board of Pensions Plan—Videos

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    Our regional representative, Clayton Cobb, presented the changes to our benefits recently at our Presbytery Center. You can watch the presentation in its entirety below on Vimeo. Or you can read about the changes in these two documents. Overview of the 2017 Benefits Plan2017 Benefit Plan Redesign Handout by Clayton Cobb If you have further questions you can make a comment below or contact Clayton directly.          

  • A Time for Fireworks and Champagne


    I feel like school just recessed for the summer. Do you remember the feeling? The world bursts with possibility, the scent of cut grass, warm days stretching into cool evenings, the anticipation of holidays and fireworks. All seems possible. “Why?” you might ask. God answered so many prayers in the month of May it feels like I have been given a new lease on life. On top of celebrating my daughter’s graduation from college, another … Read More

  • When “Plan B” is Better Than “Plan A”


    At our May Presbytery meeting, Tom Cramer highlighted several of our congregations’ creative responses to unplanned opportunities: the creation of a Korean-speaking worship service in La Mirada; the welcome of a single family in Costa Mesa that led to a Syrian fellowship; and the change of focus from young families to retirees in Laguna Woods—a change that, ironically, multiplied the number of preschool volunteers. These congregations’ ministries did not emerge by random chance. But neither … Read More

  • Meet Jonas Hayes, Grace First’s New Pastor


    For Rev. Jonas Hayes, newly called pastor of Grace First, Long Beach, coming to Los Ranchos from Kansas City (and before that Mississippi), all roads lead to California, it seems. He met his wife in California, got married in California, was ordained in California and had his first child (Sonja Grace, 7) in California. So, his return is a homecoming of sorts for the native ofthe midwest. Before Jonas and his wife Kim were married … Read More

  • News and Notes from the Stated Clerk


    April has been full of newsworthy events within the Presbytery and the wider church. This column contains those of particular interest to a Stated Clerk—and perhaps to you. Judicial Proceedings Concerning the Presbytery St. Paul’s Rescission: On February 25, the Presbytery voted to rescind its actions concerning the dismissal of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church of Anaheim. A complaint was filed against the rescission with the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) of the Synod of Southern California … Read More

  • A Major Redesign for Board of Pensions Benefits Program


    The Board of Pensions has presented a major redesign for their benefits program, to be effective January 1, 2017.  All Board of Pensions members will receive a booklet in May to outline the new programs.  A few things to note: 1. Called-and-installed Teaching Elder pastors of our congregations will continue to be covered as usual as long as they work at least 20 hours/week.  The dues for 2017 will be the same as for 2016, … Read More

  • A Missionary for Every Place and Walk of Life


    Last month I wrote about a powerful process that congregations can use to mobilize their members for mission right where they are. It was the “Awaken & Activate” process, next hosted by the Presbyterian Church of the Master from June 14-16. Now I want to spotlight another resource that is transforming the way Christians in America are bringing the life of Jesus to their communities and places of work. Let me do so by focusing … Read More

  • Become a Church That Impacts the Community


    One congregation I visited recently for a town hall meeting was lamenting the fact that they had so few young families with children participating in their fellowship while there were so many young families with children living in the neighborhood near their church. One member even exclaimed, “I just don’t understand why young people are not coming to our church?” It was an honest question, to be sure, but I don’t believe it is the … Read More

  • Home Improvement

    Work tools

    Consider owning a home. Most homeowners imagine an attractive and comfortable place where they can both invite guests and unwind alone. We readily invest time and money to achieve our visions for a home. Painting the bedroom, buying new furniture, and remodeling the kitchen often contribute to our dreams. But houses also require lots of unexciting work. Some of it is basic maintenance: weeding the yard, patching the driveway, caulking the windows. Some of it … Read More

  • Cyclical: the Next Boom of Churches


    At our recent presbytery gathering the GCT brought the new Mission Plan, endorsed by Council, before the presbytery. After discussion the plan will continue to be refined and will be brought back to the presbytery in May. One of the tools in the proposed Mission Plan is Cyclical. At our recent Open Space we had a chance to learn a bit more about it from Nick Warnes, of the Presbytery of San Fernando. Nick Warnes … Read More

  • “Chosen By God Through the Voice of…”

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    A phrase from last November’s Stated meeting caught my ear and has lingered. It reminded me of an old Presbyterian understanding of how we discern the will of God for our common work. During the meeting, we elected and commissioned elders to serve at General Assembly this coming June. One of the questions in the commissioning service read thus: “Do we, members of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, accept [names] as commissioners to General Assembly, … Read More

  • Some Things You Just Can’t Google

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    I had a fascinating conversation with a commissioner of presbytery the other night. I noticed how for decades she had been committed to the work of the wider church, so I wanted to ask her “Why?” After dinner she told me, “There are things in life that you just can’t Google.” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, so I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, you know how when you’re shopping online and … Read More

  • Dr. Craig Barnes Speaks on “Body and Soul”


    Introduction The Heidelberg opens with the affirmation that our only comfort is that we are not our own, but belong body and soul, in life and death to our faithful savior Jesus Christ. This stands over against the contemporary mythology that life is something we self-construct. These presentations by the Rev. Dr. Craig Barnes at the Annual Pastors Retreat for the Presbyteries of Los Ranchos and Santa Barbara focus on Jacob who is an ancient … Read More

  • Discerning the Mission as It Unfolds


    Jason Ko admits it’s a bit early to really know how things are going to unfold. But that doesn’t mean that he and the leadership of Community Presbyterian La Mirada are not excited and anticipatory about the new Korean speaking worship service that began January 31. “I think that we have really turned around from survival mode to kingdom driven missional outward focused church,” Jason said. Elder Marilyn Moore couldn’t contain her excitement about the … Read More

  • Enduring Hostility Graciously—One Step at a Time


    An important step in my faith life came when I learned to interpret personal opponents as gifts from God. Rather than people who merely raised my blood pressure, they became the path by which God was working to make me holy—more like Christ. Midway through my pastorate in Washington, we had seen solid progress. The congregation began to recognize that the church was changing from a politically-driven, pastor-centered body to a vision-driven, mission-centered one. Most … Read More

  • The Road to Exceptional


    Although it sounds crass to say, and it makes me cringe every time I do, people “shop” for churches today the way they shop for everything else. There is very little brand loyalty any more. Just as consumers will buy a Kia as quickly as they will buy a Ford, people searching for a church will attend a Methodist congregation down the street just as readily as they’ll drive across town to a Presbyterian one. … Read More

  • Freedom from the Myth of Permanence

    Liam Humbles, a first grader, receives a symbolic sign of the cross on his forehead at the Ash Wednesday school mass held at Saint Rose of Lima Church in Miami Shores, Florida, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)

    My dad died on December 30, 2008. I remember exactly where my sister and I were when we received the news. We rushed to our childhood home to be with him and the rest of our family. He was lying on a hospice bed in our family’s dining room. I climbed up on the bed and cried so hard I was worried I would run out of tears. He was a great man, great in … Read More

  • Looking Back: God at Work in 2015


    “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5) “So shines a good deed in a weary world” (Willy Wonka, quoting Shakespeare) The last week of the calendar year is a quiet one in the Presbyterian world. Pastors and lay leaders, after pouring their energy into Advent and Christmas, pause to rest for a week before the New Year begins. The phones at the Los Ranchos office are quiet. … Read More

  • Behold the Beauty–A Christmas Greeting


    I understand astronauts’ first flights in space change them forever. After years of scientific education, technical preparation, and rigorous physical training, their moment finally arrives. They lie back in their seats with seatbelts across their chests and hear the countdown from control. Long before “zero” is announced, the cockpit begins to tremble. When liftoff finally arrives, it hits as violently as any earthquake and more loudly than a hundred fighter jets roaring overhead. For the … Read More

  • Revival, Rebuilding—and Regulations?


    “From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor… The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built…So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from break … Read More

  • A Conversation with Tim McCalmont on the Situation in Syria and What We Can Do


    The recent Paris bombings have only heightened the media emphasis on Syria on the ongoing conflict. Our own Tim McCalmont, as many know, has become quite involved with the situation in Syria particularly through members of his congregation. I asked him to offer some reflections to help us as a presbytery navigate our own understandings and possibilities for response. Can you give us any update on the situation? I think it is good to be … Read More

  • Pastors Retreat February 17-19, 2016


    Los Ranchos Pastors: Advent season is upon us all and this is no time to receive a message about something in February…. unless its about the Pastors’ Retreat! With all that is happening in our world, our denomination and in each of our churches it seems we might all be looking for some encouragement and personal renewal that can only come through the friendships we have as colleagues in Los Ranchos. My reason for writing … Read More

  • Warming Up


    If you ever have a chance to attend a football game, notice what the players are doing before kickoff. You’ll see them stretching their muscles. During warm-up routines, they exercise every single muscle in the body. This makes them more flexible during the game, thereby maximizing their performance and minimizing injuries. Coaches maintain that flexing is the most important activity a player can do to prepare for a game. According to Russell Crabtree, the same … Read More

  • Robert’s Rules and the Lesser of Evils


    “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” (Winston Churchill to the House of Commons, November 1947). The Native Alaskans among whom my wife and I ministered for ten years loved parliamentary procedure. For a particular family in our congregation, receiving one’s own, up-to-date copy of Robert’s Rules … Read More

  • GA Moderator, Heath Rada, Invites Us to Join the Conversation


    We have the opportunity to discuss the identity and purpose of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as part of a church-wide conversation initiated by the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. “Please share your insights, wisdom, hopes and dreams for the PC(USA),” said Margaret Elliott, moderator of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. “Through careful listening and honest sharing we can create a church for this time and place.” Talk individually … Read More

  • Nominations to PCUSA Church-Wide Entities


    Dear Colleagues in Ministry, The deadline — Tuesday, December 1, 2015 — is fast approaching for new application for nomination forms for persons wishing to be considered by the GA Nominating Committee for nomination to one of almost thirty entities to which the GANC makes nominations.  Please share this information with persons in your mid council who might be considering the possibility of elected service on one of the ongoing boards, commissions, or committees at … Read More

  • Steve Wirth on Generosity and Giving It Away


    Steve Wirth believes in generosity. He has seen it at work in his former congregation, Grace First. He is seeing it at work in his new role as Regional Representative to the Presbyterian Foundation. And is looking forward to seeing it at work in the Los Ranchos Challenge Fund. Steve is the Moderator of the Challenge Fund Communications Team. “Generosity breeds generosity,” says Steve. “We have to get out of the fearful mode.” For Steve, … Read More

  • Even Good Policies Have Their Limits


                          They constantly try to escape From the darkness outside and within By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. –TS Eliot, “Choruses from the Rock” Structural responses cannot solve the problems of human nature. Last month I described a bureaucratic solution that had hurt a presbytery’s candidates for ministry. This month I want to broaden the discussion of … Read More

  • Re-Ordering Faith: What Comes First?

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    In her book, Christianity After Religion, Diana Butler-Bass writes about “the Great Reversal.” She believes it is the key to growing the church in the coming decades. According to her, Christianity can be characterized by belief, behavior and belonging. All three are important but the church has traditionally prioritized them in this order. For example, to become a member, a person first had to confess the Apostles Creed and then obey the 10 Commandments. Only … Read More

  • Los Ranchos, Consider Your Future. Then Write a Different One


    Eighty first-year seminarians gathered in a conference room one cold New Jersey afternoon to meet with the manager of Louisville’s office on Preparation for Ministry. Thirty minutes into the Q&A, he paused and pointed at one of us. “Who is your presbytery?” he asked her. Pointing to another, “And yours?” And to Karen and me: “Yours too?” We were all from the same presbytery. “That’s what I thought,” he said. “That presbytery[i] is unique. Let’s … Read More

  • Taking the Guesswork Out of Growing a Healthy Church

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    When I was 26, I could barely throw a ball. My shoulder hurt so badly my softball team moved me from shortstop to second base, and then, when I couldn’t make even the short throw to first, they moved me to no base at all. I was benched. When I complained to my sister (who also happens to be a general surgeon) about my symptoms, she sent me directly to an orthopedic specialist, suspecting that … Read More

  • Good News in the Heart of LA


    As anyone who has been around awhile knows, presbytery life can sometimes be frustrating. But, in the midst of that, there is good news. It is good news that Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder is ready to share as part of her new calling to the chaplaincy at County USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles. “I think this is really good news that people aren’t often aware of, that presbyterian churches in Southern California are working … Read More

  • The Rise of Southern Presbyterianism, and Why You Should Care


    Recently I spoke with an executive presbyter from South Carolina. He observed that the traditional language of marriage in the Southern church prior to reunion was not “between a man and a woman.” It was, rather, “between two parties.” What if the “new” language for marriage in our Directory for Worship is not a 21st century invention? What if, instead, it hearkens back to traditional language in the Southern Book of Order? If you’ll come … Read More

  • Sabbath Energy


    A retired friend and pastor once confided in me that his “get up and go” had “gotten up and left.” We can all relate to him from time to time, regardless of our age. There are moments when we feel like we can leap tall buildings in a single bound, while at others we just feel plumb out of gas. Pastors and community organizers are known to experience this ebb and flow of energy with … Read More

  • Pledging Allegiance In a Time of National Tragedy


    One of my memories from grade school was our weekly flag ceremonies on the black top. I remember standing there on misty Pt. Loma mornings as the flag was raised to the music of our National Anthem, played loudly over the principal’s portable speaker system. They were solemn moments that calibrated our weeks and caused us to focus on ideals larger than ourselves. We stood there, 6-12 year old kids, looking up on a flag … Read More

  • Apology and Forgiveness Under the Shadow of the Law[1]

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    Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help (Ps. 146:3). I am a servant of Los Ranchos and a representative of the Presbyterian Church (USA). So perhaps you’ll understand when I say that June has placed great demands on this pastor’s heart. June began with news that one of our minister members lost his job in Louisville without explanation.[2] It is ending with news that another of our … Read More

  • Rev. Chineta Goodjoin Featured In Media

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    Rev. Chineta Goodjoin, the pastor of New Hope, and her family are in Charlotte, South Carolina for the Memorial Service(s) for the Charleston Nine, particularly for her good friend, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Chineta has been featured in these news releases:People Magazine Orange County Register MSNBC

  • A Conversation With Newly Elected Moderator, Jason Ko

    Jason Ko

    Our newly elected presbytery moderator, Jason Ko, has been serving Community Presbyterian Church in La Mirada for just over six years, having moved to Southern California the year before. “I came to the church young, naive – but by the grace of God and a lot of good mentoring by the great heroes of our presbytery I learned and grew tremendously,” said Ko. “I think what we need in our presbytery and in our churches … Read More

  • “The Space Between Past and Future”

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    D. Mark Davis from St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach leads the Presbytery of Los Ranchos in worship.  The service begins with a skit on the Report of the Strategic Planning Team of the Hebrew Liberation Presbytery followed by a reflection entitled: “The Space Between Past and Future.” A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is… …a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical … Read More

  • Two Salesmen Walk Onto a Plane: Los Ranchos and the Pew Report


    On the flight back from a training week for new presbytery-level staff leaders in Louisiana, I couldn’t help but overhear a very revealing conversation in the two seats next to me. A cheese salesman was pouring out his heart to a knife salesman. Both were in their late 20’s. While their interaction began in bursts of laughter as they recounted their lives as salesmen, it gradually moved on to more serious matters, with the cheese … Read More

  • I Don’t Have a Big Leather Chair


    At the beginning of May Tom Cramer and I attended a GA-hosted training week for new presbytery-level staff leaders. The ambiguity of the term “staff leader” is significant. Once available exclusively to “Executive Presbyters,” the training program has adjusted in recent years to the expansion of titles. Our cohort, for instance, has not only an Executive Presbyter, but also three Transitional Executives, a Resource Presbyter, a Presbytery Shepherd, and two particularly mysterious “Leaders” from Los … Read More

  • Annual Pastors Retreat 2017

    The time has come, even though our event is still a few months away. Our 2018 PASTORS’ RETREAT calls us to action in September for two reasons. The days scheduled are different this time around (Mon, January 29 – Wed, January 31) and our speaker will be addressing a very timely theme that will speak to our souls. Dr. Laurie Ferguson comes to us from upstate New York and will bring us together around the … Read More

  • Los Ranchos Challenge Fund Is a Success!

    Kathy has good news! We have matched and distributed all of the funds from the Los Ranchos Challenge to the Presbytery’s special projects. The Fund began in the fall of 2014 as part of a settlement in dismissing seven congregations from the PC(USA).[i] It matched, dollar-for-dollar, any congregation’s contributions above 2014 levels made toward Presbytery-designated ministry projects. Between the creative settlement and the churches’ above-and-beyond gifts, Los Ranchos has distributed nearly $600,000 to: —build a … Read More