We are all in this for the long haul. How good are you at social distancing? Most of us are finding all kinds of ways to settle into working at home, only going out for essential groceries, prescriptions and gas. Now how do we cope with all of this?
Below is an excerpt from an article by Lisa Fritscher title “Cabin Fever Symptoms and Coping Skills”
An opinion article posted in The Presbyterian Outlook is worth a look.
The author is C. Christopher Smith of the Region News Service. He takes a closer look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has already changed how we ‘do church.” Below is an excerpt followed by a link to the complete article.
(RNS) — The coronavirus pandemic has quickly swept the globe, throwing just about every human institution into chaos. Faith communities are no exception.
With gatherings restricted in size or prohibited altogether, many houses of worship are fighting to stay connected, rapidly weighing technological options to keep as many people as possible engaged.
This involves a a good deal of trial and error. Congregational leaders find themselves relying on multiple digital tools — some of which they have never used before — to connect themselves to their members and to keep their members caring for each other.
As stressful as these times are, they have provided an extraordinary opportunity in my Christian community to reflect on our identity and mission as the church, and to imagine ways of being more connected than ever with our fellow church members.
In normal times, most churches plow forward without much reflection on identity and mission.
Now they have the chance to do something new, and I challenge churches to take a wee bit of time to reflect together on questions like these:
What is the church? A building? A particular gathering? A community?
What is worship? What really matters in a worship service? And given the limits forced on us by the pandemic, which technological tools can best help us embody our identity and mission?
To all member churches of the Presbytery of Lake Erie
Are you live streaming or making worship available on Facebook during this coronavirus pandemic? If so, would you be willing to make that information available so other churches who may not have Sunday worship could access your site? Please provide the contact information, the link needed to access the live stream, and the time the live stream will begin. Melinda in the Presbytery office is compiling a list and we will make that list available to all right here. Please email Melinda in the PLE office at [email protected]
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
—Strength to Love, 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
Every January the Martin Luther King Center in Erie, PA recognizes an individual or organization that personifies the challenge Dr. King issued to all of us. He once said ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’ and this is the basis of what led the King Holiday Committee to select the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant for the prestigious “Dr. King Award.”
Erie’s MLK Center celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the King Holiday Awards with a dinner on January 11, 2020 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center. “The Dr. King Award is presented to an individual or organization that personifies the concept of that quote by Dr. King and is committed to making the community a better place by the contribution of time, actions, talents and dedication. It is the living, breathing mission of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant that made the decision to present the 2020 Dr. King Award to First Covenant an easy one,” says James Sherrod, executive director of the MLK Center.
First Covenant Pastor Chris Weichman, Seph Kumer – Director of Community Engagement, Monty Service – Coordinator of Missional Music and several church elders and members attended the awards dinner. The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. King’s son, Martin Luther King the III. Sherrod presented the award to the First Covenant. The inscription on the award reads “Presented by The Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Committee to the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant for their passion for the under represented and the compassion for fair and equitable treatment for all.”
Five years ago First Covenant conducted a mission study in preparation for the calling of a new pastor. This extensive study asked members of the congregation and staff about the church’s activities, ministries and the community. The results provided a new vision for First Covenant that became known as ‘Our Future Direction.’ The summary includes the ‘Four Pillars of First Covenant.’ They are: neighborhood relevance; better use of our building; a renewed focus on children, youth and families; and a focus on hospitality. By embracing these ‘Four Pillars,’ First Covenant has fundamentally changed how it does ‘church.’
“God has called us through some interesting and challenging years over the past decade. But when we paused and asked God to show us His desires for us as a church, and then we really, truly put effort into listening, God took us in some uncharted, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, risky direction. Let’s keep asking God for that guidance and let’s keep listening and risking. For I am sure God has more uncharted, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, risky things in store for us! Aren’t you excited for that?!” says Kumer.
When asked about the significance of First Covenant receiving the Dr. King Award, Kumer believes it is really not a recognition of US so much as a recognition that God is doing something IN US and THROUGH US that others have noticed. “The recognition is really all about God’s work, showing us how to build bridges and partnerships. It shows that listening and taking risks and being about the long, slow business of building relationships is worthy of our time and resources. It’s not so much that we have accomplished something as it is that God is inviting us to look around and see where God is already at work, and to join in,” says Kumer.
Since the mission study in 2015, First Covenant has been transformed by this new focus on community engagement, outreach and neighborhood relevance in Erie’s west bayfront neighborhood. What has evolved includes partnering with the Martin Luther King Center for annual Thanksgiving dinners, and developing other partnerships that include Gannon University, Erie City Mission, Strong Vincent Middle School and the City of Erie. “I believe this honor is the result of humbly listen to and learning from our neighbors. Over the past five years we have been willing to take risks and step out of our comfort zone. Our hope for the future is to continually learn from our neighbors and partner with other organizations to more fully live out MLK’s dream for Erie,” says Service.
“I hope it is humbling us. I hope it is helping us realize our community has much to offer. Much we can learn from. If we want to. If we listen. If we are willing to engage outside of the box. If we are willing to ask God what our blinders might be. What we are missing when we think we are so gifted and wise and talented that we miss the gifts and wisdom and talents of those around us. I think there are things God wants to teach our congregation that we can only learn from a posture of humility, of eagerness to learn, of willingness to “walk with” instead of ‘need to lead.’ Truly it is God’s amazing work,”says Kumer.
Dr. David Oyler is the General Presbyter for the Presbytery of Lake Erie. Oyler, believes in a post-Christendom culture the church is re-learning that the building of trust in Christ as Lord occurs one relationship at a time. “The honoring of First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant with the MLK Award indicates something quite profound about what it means to be ‘church.’ Church, of course, involves worship, music and education. At the same time it involves mission – and sometimes that mission is right outside our front door. That involves understanding that tradition is still powerful (and important) while at the same time initiating new connections in new ways. Sometimes we barely know where to begin. First Covenant has had the courage to take risks and look toward nontraditional ministries,” says Oyler.
The ‘Four Pillars’ of First Covenant, including neighborhood relevance, is serving as a pathway to the future, a future that looks considerably different from the past.“At one time – not all that long ago – mission was seen as ‘out there’; often across salt water. Early in the 21st century there is a new appreciation for mission as being nearby. This is particularly true as we observe the neighborhoods changing around us. When a church becomes increasingly disconnected from a neighborhood it creates complications for effective ministry and worship. Attention to the culture and traditions of our neighborhood is vital for future effectiveness,” says Oyler.
Several years ago Seph Kumer gathered some folks, including neighbors of First Covenant, and invited them to join him at Perry Square in downtown Erie for the start of Erie’s annual MLK Day walk. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law legislation honoring Dr. King and making the third Monday of January a federal holiday. The Nobel Prize winning, civil rights leader was born January 15, 1929. This year Kumer gathered folks again for the annual walk, which is held on MLK Day. The walkers travel along West 6th Street, passing right in front of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant and then walk on to the MLK Center.
“We walk in solidarity with our Erie neighbors to remind ourselves of the values and dreams Dr. King challenged us to live out. Dreams for a united community where ALL know they are valued, NONE are left behind, and injustices are dismantled. A vision Dr. King took right from the Bible. So, YAY for ALL of US. But even more importantly, thank you GOD,” says Kumer.
The 2020 Clergy Retreat is February 10 – 12 for all Clergy and Commissioned Ruling Elders
of the Presbyteries of Western New York & Lake Erie.
The registration deadline is January 27! (link to the registration form below)
Unleashing the Power of Your Full Voice: A Practical and Transformational Approach
to a Much-Overlooked Tool – with Barbara McAfee
As pastors, we spend a good part of every day in conversation — with family members, colleagues, community members and parishioners. We also use our voices to convey the Word to our congregations. As important as our voices are, few of us know how to use them to their full potential. Many of us feel self-conscious about how we sound, but don’t know how to make authentic, lasting change in our voices.
Learning to consciously tap the full range of expression available to you makes it much more likely that your message will reach the minds and hearts of your listeners — in spite of the background noise of these chaotic and challenging times. Working with your own full voice makes you a more skillful listener as well.
In this joyful, embodied, and practical presentation, we will:
- Assess our vocal strengths, habits, assumptions, and challenges
- Increase vocal awareness, flexibility, and expression using the Five Elements Framework
- Identify ways to use voice to project authority, express passion, extend compassion, and convey vision in everyday conversations
- Discover how to listen to what the voices of others are saying about them
- Gather a list of practices to continue individual vocal development
Use this registration form … PLE 2020 clergy retreat … and send payment to the PLE.
The 2020 Clergy Retreat will be held at the Clarion Hotel in Dunkirk on Lake Erie. The address is: 30 Lake Shore Drive East, Dunkirk, NY 14048. Phone:716: 366-8350
Girard Congregation begins construction on a new church –
“The sacred presence of God is evident.” – Rev. David Oyler
“God is faithful and God’s people are generous.” – Rev. Nicola Vitiello
Written by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
The congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Girard reached a major milestone on Sunday, November 24. Church members, with shovels in hand, including the young and not so young, held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on a new church building.
“It feels surreal to see construction starting,” said The Rev. Nicola Vitiello, pastor of the Girard church. “Its been a long road with many decisions, some hard, and looking at a lot of good ideas. Planning the construction of a building that will fit the needs of today and the needs of the future (which we can’t fully know obviously) is also a challenge. This is a tremendous opportunity and we want to do it right,” he said.
In July 2018, fire destroyed the 126 year old church building built in 1892. The cause of the fire was not determined. In March of 2019, crews began demolishing what remained of the church to clear the site for new construction. The original First Presbyterian Church of Girard was built at East Main (Route 20) and Church Streets in 1832. A storm destroyed that structure. Now, construction is underway on the third church building at the location.
Over the last 16 months, Girard church members have held worship services at the Lake City Presbyterian Church. The congregation has been planning and raising funds to rebuild the church building with the sale of bricks and a GoFundMe page. The new church building will cost about $3.3 million and may be completed by the end of 2020.
“The biggest difference in the design is that the new building will be one level,” Vitiello said. “The former building’s basement was not handicapped accessible and that was a problem. The one level design will mean the building will take up more of the property. There will be a sanctuary, social hall, 3 classrooms, kitchen, offices, community room, storage areas, and the part of the building that faces Route 20 will look similar to the former building. The food pantry will be housed in the new building. It will be funded by insurance, donations, fundraisers, and possibly a loan and what results from some cost saving measures currently being explored.”
At a time when the general trend is closing churches, new construction of a house of worship is extraordinary.“It is what people want, not just members, but the countless number of people from all over the country who have sent money to help rebuild on the same site. We have a fresh start, a chance to hit a reset button and do something wonderful for the community,” Vitiello said.
The Rev. David Oyler, General Presbyter for the Presbytery of Lake Erie, knows that in the mainline traditions the building of a new church building is relatively rare.
“In the last 12 years there have been two new church buildings in Lake Erie Presbytery,” Oyler said. “Both, however, emerged out of tragedy. The Harmonsburg Presbyterian Church building burned to the ground in January, 2008. They have since rebuilt a building for the 21st century. And, of course, the Girard building was destroyed by fire.”
The Girard congregation suffered a devastating loss. Yet, members rallied and in little over a year and a half members are focused on the future. There is more at work in the Girard community than just the rebuilding of a church structure.“It is a great joy to watch a faith community function at its very best,” Oyler said. “Just as individuals go through a grief cycle after a traumatic event, so do congregations. The Girard Session, and their Pastor Nicola Vitiello, have done a splendid job of paying attention to the grief cycle of the congregation. There is a Holy Spirit inspired movement evident. Some days are better than others, however, in the several times I have now been with them over the last 16 ½ months, the sacred presence of God is evident. In worship, in music, in education and in the ground breaking most recently,” Oyler reflected.
Rev. Vitiello, has served as pastor at the Girard church for the past nine years. The last 16 plus months being the most difficult, yet revealing.“God is faithful and God’s people are generous,” said Vitiello.”Ministry is hard by itself; adding all that’s come in the aftermath of the fire has made my work much harder as there are almost daily things that come to my attention that I need to deal with or delegate that relate to the project. I have learned that the church is not the building but the building is important and serves as a sacred space for people,” he said.
Girard church members have firmly put their future in God’s hands. Rev. Dr. Oyler has witnessed this faith-in-action and the process that has led to renewal. “God is wonderfully powerful in ways not easily defined. Out of a most difficult experience comes new growth, new stretching, new perspective on what it means to be ‘the church’. Author Rusty Reno wrote a book some years ago titled ‘In the Ruins of the Church’ in which he reminds us that we are always standing on the shoulders of those who have preceded us. A local congregation builds on what has come before with an eye on the future. That is wonderfully evident as Girard shares Good News in their community and testifies to the power of God, even in a time of tragedy. God is wonderfully present in a most powerful fashion.”
Presbytery of Lake Erie Passes an Overture on the Korean Peninsula and sends it for General Assembly Consideration
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a connectional church. That means that there are many documents – like the Book of Confessions and Book of Order – that guide our common life together. In addition presbyteries are permitted to send overtures to the General Assembly on matters that draw the attention of faithful Presbyterian Christians. In November the Presbytery of Lake Erie approved an overture to be sent to the 224th General Assembly, to be held in Baltimore in June of 2020. This overture deals with the continuing strained relationships on the Korean Peninsula. It emerged out of the conversations that were enhanced through the visit of International Peacemaker Rev. Moon-Sook Lee to Lake Erie Presbytery in September of 2019. In summary, it seeks to continue to encourage PCUSA commitment to work toward peace in a portion of the world which has had a complex history in recent centuries. This overture will be considered by a committee of the General Assembly. If recommended by the committee, it would then be voted on by the entire General Assembly. Click on the link below to view the entire overture: