The Mission of the Presbytery of Philadelphia is to provide resources and support to our churches to develop healthy congregations, faithful leadership, common mission and ministry and essential administrative and institutional support.
The WPPP is pleased to announce Rev. Marshal as the Designated Pastor of the newly formed partnership between First African, Calvin, and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Churches. Please click on the link below for her bio.
“Behold! I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Rev. Eustacia Marshal, appointed Designated Pastor.
The congregations of First African Presbyterian Church, Calvin Presbyterian Church, and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church are being guided by the Spirit into a new thing in West Philadelphia. Over two years of conversation and prayer, walking alongside the Presbytery of Philadelphia, the WPPP (West Philadelphia Presbyterian Partnership) entered a new stage of life as they began worshiping together as one in January 2019. With their new pastor they take their next step in this journey, humbly and continually attuned to the movement of the Spirit who has brought them this far.
Worshipping at WPPP
10 AM Sunday School, 11 AM Worship
Community Center 4900 Wyalusing Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19131
This summer, Kirkwood is expecting over 300 campers for the first time since 2005. Our summer staff began training on June 2nd. Our training consisted of community building, camp activities, trauma training, diversity training, a visit to a local church, and an overnight canoe trip. We were joined on June 9th by board members, families, and friends to commission our staff here at camp.
Our program began June 17th, with our first Joy of Creation week. Joy of Creation allows for our campers to sign up for “classes,” which occur in the morning. Later in the day, they participate in camp activities and bible study in their small group. This Joy of Creation week was less music and arts focused than usual (we offer a variety of classes and, in this case, the campers got their choice). This week’s classes were focused on games and outdoor education and adventures.
Our high school small group was a great example of how our community forms each week. The campers in that group came from as far away as Pittsburgh and Staten Island. About half were new campers and half returnees. They bonded really quickly and did an excellent job overcoming the tasks our staff challenged them with at our low ropes course (pictured). As high schoolers, it’s not surprising that they shared varying levels of faith and cynicism towards the church–but by the end of the week, they articulated a greater openness to God’s calling in their lives. A majority of the group signed up for multiple weeks this summer.
Week 2 at Kirkwood was Fantasy Camp week. Mostly made up of returning campers from last year’s fantasy camp, with a few new additions. There was an extra layer of excitement around Kirkwood the whole week. Our four small groups worked to make banners and costumes, as well as build secret forts in the woods to rally their groups around. On Thursday, the whole community together played “Capture the Castle,” a game that uses a full half of our site to play within the fantasy world we have created.
A huge part of our program is that Kirkwood is neutral ground. Kids who attend our camp meet new people, and people who are not like them. They are away from home and school and technology–and so they have a unique opportunity to test out different versions of themselves over the week. Through Fantasy Camp, we take this to an extreme–role playing elves, orcs, gnomes, and spellcasters. But through bible study and worship, we have a great angle to ask our campers who they want to be in their own lives. The uniqueness of our community during Fantasy Camp is an important opportunity to minister to those kids who normally would not volunteer themselves to be in a summer camp situation. I have included some pictures of our best costumes and the group picture from the end of the week. Click here to view the Kirkwood Summer 2019 album.
Our Bible study and worship curriculum this year is based on the Parables of Jesus. Focusing on the parables of the sower, mustard seed, prodigal son, lost sheep/coin, the good Samaritan, the parable of the feast, among others–we were able to allow all of our campers an accessible way to build up their faith, understand God’s love for us is never ending and always goes unearned, and what our call to go out to love and serve the Lord really means.
TMT Memorial Presbyterian Church Residency and 1001 New Worshipping Communities
by Rev. Greg Klimovitz
How can a congregation envision ministry of empathy alongside neighbors all-too-familiar with isolation and neglect? This has been the framing question for the Rev. Dr. Carroll Jenkins at Thomas M Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church (TMT) in Chester. The last of five Presbyterian congregations in this three-mile urban center alongside the Delaware River, TMT has recently re-established their commitment to intentional community engagement as incarnations of the gospel. “We are really trying to identify people who have particular needs and out of those needs there is a spiritual thirst. As we can identify that, we can help them find the spiritual resources that will strengthen them and help them to go forward,” remarked Rev. Dr. Jenkins. “We [have begun] to talk about how we can improve the quality of life within the community.”
Once a primary hub for industry and business, Chester is no longer primarily known for its production, vibrancy, or vocational opportunity. Major corporations have closed, political interests have shifted to the suburbs, resources for the public school system have been slow to come by, and employment has been on a steady decline. All of this has contributed to a strong sense of abandonment felt by local residents. This is where TMT has discerned and renewed a call to subvert the narrative of despair and envision ministry of solidarity and support alongside the good people of their beloved city. “We were not sure what we were going to grab onto as an interest area,” added Rev. Dr. Jenkins. “[We knew] this was something we needed to think about- how do we bring people together without saying you got to come and worship in this place?”
The openness to new possibilities ultimately led TMT, in collaboration with the Presbytery of Philadelphia, to pilot a residency program through the 1001 New Worshipping Communities (NWC) movement of the PCUSA. Launched in July 2018, TMT welcomed Kearni Warren to facilitate a venture in contextual engagement with their neighborhood. A child of Chester and proven entrepreneur from a lineage of small business owners, educators, and Presbyterian ministers, Kearni has a natural ability for collaboration and vision casting. As Warren and Rev. Dr. Jenkins dreamed together and spoke with local residents, they sensed a call to facilitate the beginnings of a new ministry of empowerment alongside caregivers. This is something Kearni Warren knows much about, as she served as the primary caregiver for her mother, the late Rev. Bernice Warren, in her fight against cancer. “Caregivers for a long time have been a forgotten community [and] there have been stereotypes about caregivers,” said Warren. “Up until recently, the face of caregivers has changed. It is no longer that person whom we think is working at a nursing home or who may be uneducated and doesn’t possess a lot of skills. Today caregivers are professional people who have either quit their jobs to take care of mom or dad or grandmother or they are professional people who are trying to juggle their work while providing care for a family member.”
This budding initiative, known as the Caregiver Society, not only extends community to those who care for the terminally ill, but also those who nurture Alzheimer patients and adults with special needs, second-time-around grandparents raising grandchildren whose parents are incarcerated, individuals who walk alongside family and friends battling addiction, and more. As caregivers expend themselves for the sake of another, self-care and support networks are vital, “So for me to be able to provide a sense of community where we can all come together to express what we are going through so that we do not feel alone [and] to offer spiritual guidance, that is the core of what the Caregiver Society is about,” added Warren, whose residency was recently extended for a second-year. “[We are] forming a community where we can go to each other, count on each other for support, whichever way that may come.” This support ranges from vision board parties that foster clarity of vocation and personal ambition, conversations with experts in a variety of professional fields, and spiritual formation practices to center the mind and spirit wearied from the on-going self-offering to loved ones. One caregiver shared with Warren, “I have never been a part of something so big.”
In many ways, the identified demographic of caregivers has become a gateway to serve those in Chester most vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, grief, and loss. As the residency program of TMT has shifted their leadership’s emphasis from filling church pews alone, they have linked arms with those who humbly live into the gospel beyond their congregational walls as embodiments of the church of Jesus Christ. “The commitment of Christ is that you allow Christ’s Spirit in you,” commented Rev. Dr. Jenkins. “You have to allow the church to be in you, not something you are going to, but something that you are already a part of every day. It doesn’t make any difference where you are. You become Christ in the flesh.”
We give thanks for the way the faithful of TMT and the Caregiver Society are indeed Christ in the flesh alongside those who provide compassion and care to their most vulnerable neighbors. Their witness serves as a reminder that faithful ministry often occurs as we simply come alongside those in our communities who already model what love and generosity look like beyond our church buildings. May our eyes and ears be open to these messengers of hope, even as we strengthen their mind, bodies, and spirits for their good and faithful work. In so doing, we just may shift individual and cultural narratives away from despair and towards the bigness of God’s wide welcome and affirmation of belonging.
Ministry alongside Caregivers in Chester: A Residency through TMT Memorial Presbyterian Church - SoundCloud (2383 secs long, 5 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Included below are brief updates and reminders, events and dates related to benefits and the Board.
I. Highlights from Board of Directors meeting, June 20-22, 2019
There will be no increase in Pastor’s Participation dues rates; the medical portion will remain at 25% of effective salary for 2020, as will the minimum and maximum dues.
Menu options medical dues will be available as Employer Agreement season opens July 15.
The final 2018 audited financial statements and 2018 Financial Review were presented to the board
II. Organizing Pastor/Evangelists benefits grant applications due July 15.
Dues ‘scholarships’ are available for presbyteries employing organizing pastors/evangelists [job code 301]. Click for more information or the application.
III. Online Benefits Connections webinar – registration now open!
On Monday, July 22, 2:00 pm, a small group of Church Consultants will host a live webinar. Just in time for Employer Agreement season (opening July 15), a team of Church Consultants will bring updated information and reminders about:
the values the Board brings to providing benefits
the many benefits available through the Board of Pensions,
how to use the flexibility of Menu Options to support your church’s staff
medical coverage options; included and optional benefits
income security plans
‘how-to’s for accessing Benefits Connect, Employer Agreements and Employer Services
You can also submit your specific questions as you register.
“…So I prophesied as I had been commanded;
and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
I looked, and there were sinews on them; and flesh had come upon them,
and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal,
and say to the breath; Thus says the Lord God;
Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain
that they may live. I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude…”
The complexity of the prophet Ezekiel is one that has always intrigued me. As do many of you, I appreciate the image of the valley of the dry bones. I have often, more than I care to admit, found myself standing in front of what feels like the impossible and wondering, “God you must be kidding.” My mind continues, “Not only is there no way I can do what you ask, but also I don’t even know how to begin.” Somewhere in my head I understand, “with God all things are possible,” but it is challenging for my mortal spirit and body to perceive anything beyond my senses. There is a temptation to skepticism I keep hidden from the world, but that exists none-the-less. I believe this is a “catch 22” for us as a people of faith seeking to be a witness together through our diverse churches and ministries.
I am presently writing from Louisville, Kentucky as I prepare for the board meeting of the Presbyterian Foundation of which I have the privilege to serve. I found myself led to this text, which has once again challenged and reminded me of several critical observations that are both helpful and necessary for compelling inspiration.
First, it is clear God is always the initiator of the possibility of new lives. This is true throughout the Biblical witness. We are the receivers of that message. It is God who initiates the possibilities in the midst of the impossible. It is God who invites us to step up and into the challenge of the unknown.
Second, God “commands us.” God does not make an inquiry or ask a question of Ezekiel, such as, “would you like to stand before a dry and barren people and land?” In this narrative, God does not even direct Ezekiel to where he should go. God takes Ezekiel by the hand and places him where he is called to breathe new life.
Third, the “rattling of the bones,” reminds us before new life can occur, there will often be new and unfamiliar noises. These noises remind us the true prophetic word will cause us to want to put our hands over our ears. It reminds us that if we can trust God, those rattling sounds will give way to new life.
Fourth, the breath Ezekiel is commanded to call upon does not come simply from one place. The breath comes from the four winds – reminding us that God’s life-giving breath comes from every corner of this earth, from every corner of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. God’s powerful spirit is not limited to or by our particular corner of the universe.
Finally, I was reminded yet again, in order for God’s transforming breath to come and work through us, we must stop long enough to call upon God. We must listen for God’s invitational voice to obedient service, service and witness often unclear and unformed. It is in obedience to God’s command that Ezekiel is able to prophesy new life into what had once been but a valley of dry bones – an impossible situation. Ezekiel calls on God’s powerful and Holy Spirit – and it is then that those bones not only live, but also stand as a vast multitude.
I am smiling as I type this, as I can visualize a gift on my desk that I received from my former presbytery in California. On it is a quote from Walt Disney (the great American philosopher) – “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” I love that we as a church are given this opportunity to call upon God’s Holy Breath in an effort to be faithful, relevant, and creative as we seek to be and do church in new ways. Throughout our Presbytery, there are faithful initiatives inviting new life in places where the valleys have been deep and dry. I am grateful for the spirit of possibility in the midst of what often feels impossible. May this word breathe life-giving encouragement into our often weary souls – as we share and embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this world.
How can a church engage the intergenerational landscape of their changing neighborhood? This is a common question asked by congregations throughout our Presbytery and around the country. For the faithful of Old Pine Presbyterian Church in Old City, the answers are not as complicated and glitzy as what many might imagine. A congregation that recently celebrated its 250th anniversary, maintains a cemetery with 285 Revolutionary War soldiers buried on its grounds, and shares property with the Presbyterian Historical Society, this historical faith community has also embraced a steady influx of young families and individuals and doubled membership in the last seven years. “For people who know our physical presence in the neighborhood, our history is one of the things that stands out,” commented Rev. Jason Ferris, pastor of Old Pine since 2012. “But as you get to know us a little better, hopefully you’ll see that we are a very authentic congregation that is trying to live the gospel in a way that is authentic to our experience and directed to people who live in this area.”
Rather than fall to the (false) assumption that more contemporary music, high-energy instrumentation, and the manufacturing of a particular spiritual experience will lure in a younger demographic, Old Pine has invested their energies in hospitality, education, community engagement, social impact, and traditional worship that merges thoughtful preaching with liturgical depth. “I think what is working at Old Pine is making the gospel relevant again. We don’t do anything too fancy,” Rev. Ferris added. “We really believe [the gospel] changes lives. We really believe it is totally relevant to contemporary life; that it gives us something that the secular world doesn’t. And that we haven’t outgrown our need for Jesus Christ and the life that he gives us.”
One of the ways Old Pine has affirmed this belief has been through the addition of Rev. Rebecca Blake, who also serves as the organizing pastor of the Beacon Church, to serve as Pastor for Christian Education. In addition to writing a localized curriculum to nurture spiritual formation and discipleship across generational lines, Rev. Blake has added pastoral support to ensure younger members who walk through the door of the church feel welcomed, affirmed, and empowered to use their gifts and passions for the cause of Christ. “When you have people who are doing what they are meant to do for the benefit of other people and God, that is when you start to see people responding,” Rev. Blake remarked. “Those are the things that bring people alive and invite those in the pew into their vocation and their sense of call. That, I think, is really profound.”
As Old Pine has continued to grow in both diversity and size, storytelling has played a pivotal role in its ministry. This has included creative and intentional engagement with technology. While the worship is traditional, media including film, photography, and digital media have played a pivotal role in its community formation. One example has been through the “Humans of Old Pine Project,” an adaptation of the popular Humans of New York digital photo series that went viral in 2010. Rev. Ferris, who has a professional background as a documentary filmmaker, initiated a series of portraits of both church members and the low-income seniors who are served at Old Pine’s weekly meal program. The result was a sacred collection of testimonies that deepened human connections across generational lines. “These guests are now a part of our lives in a new way because we know something about them. It is not just handing somebody a meal and never learning their name and never learning their story,” Rev. Ferris said. “These tools really can take us into new areas of church life. They just have to be used deliberately and you have to keep that goal in mind. We are using this tool because we want to tell a story and connect with someone in a deeper way. It is not just using it because it looks cool. That, to me, is not a healthy way of using media. You have to use it more authentically.” In essence, “Humans of Old Pine” reinforced the theological foundation that, in Jesus, all belong and each individual narrative is a part of the fuller mosaic called the body of Christ.
As Old Pine continues to enhance its witness alongside younger residents in Old City, the congregation offers a faithful reminder that what counts is incarnational connection across generational lines. While the things of worship and the methods of ministry matter, what ultimately attracts those in search of belonging is the intersection of the story of God with the diversity of human experiences and the opportunity to live out vocational interests for the common good. “We do not try to promote ourselves very much. We just try to be an authentic community and the word has gotten out,” Rev. Ferris added. “We are practicing a kind of community life that is really needed but is not as available as it used to be in the outside world.”
May the ministry of this historic congregation continue to be a beacon of hope to all our churches scattered throughout Greater Philadelphia. May it nudge our congregations from the city to the suburbs towards a similar authenticity and welcome that invites people of all generations to participate in expressions of the gospel near and far.
Authentic and Intergenerational Community at Old Pine - SoundCloud (1535 secs long, 9 plays)Play in SoundCloud
These past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind as I navigated my alumni reunion at Princeton Theological Seminary, a trustee meeting, our presbytery meeting, and a hospitalized dog. It felt a bit like a carousel that would not stop – with emotions ranging from fear of loss to profound inspiration. I am sure you recognize these seasons when the complexities of life are just what they are. This is the frame with which I approached my very first alumni reunion.
I must confess, I am not really sure why I have not attended a previous reunion, but this was my 25th year and I agreed to meet up with several friends. I have also developed a renewed appreciation for the breadth of my theological education and its ongoing importance in shaping who I continue to become. Theology matters! Sitting in Miller Chapel and familiar lecture halls for three days, I listened to and absorbed the sermons and stories of colleagues and friends. I found myself reflecting on the journey of our 25 years of experiences, celebrations, hopes, births, and losses. There is no denying that familiar adage – time does fly. The presentations reminded me of a framing question of Raymond Alf, a now-deceased paleontologist in California, who founded the only fully accredited high school paleontology museum in our nation. With the backdrop of fossils dating hundreds of millions of years, he would challenge his young students with a question he hoped would shape their minds and hearts – “What will you do with your moment in time?”
In what at first glance appeared to be unrelated presentations, I found a common compelling challenge and reminder as speaker after speaker shared what they have chosen to do with their brief moment in time. As I listened to the story of my friend and colleague’s family experience with the atrocities of Japanese Internment, the story of a African American woman’s journey with racism and doubt, the story of a Nuyorican colleague’s journey with the Puerto Rican diaspora, they all claimed the importance of a love and hope that was carried in their spirits – a love and hope embodied at times against circumstances that could have stripped them of Gospel spirit. Through their witness, they all reminded us that the hope of their faith was embodied in the ministries they have been called to lead. They reminded us that profound love has the final word and serves as the ongoing motivation and inspiration. Let me be clear, their messages were not of the “Pollyanna-type” love. It is the “agape love” that is sacrificial and unconditional – emulating the love God demonstrates for us through Jesus. They did not deny the presence of evil, racism, or injustice. They did not deny the pain along their journeys. They did not deny the real and present dangers and challenges in theirs and our lives. And they did not remain passive with what confronted them. On the contrary, they were each advocates in their own way, denouncing the theology of neutrality as a faithful way forward for the church. By their witness, they answered the question again and again – “What will you do with your moment in time?”
And then there was the Rev. Victor Aloyo, Jr., who preached at our presbytery meeting last Tuesday. In many ways his message capped a week of deep personal theological reflection. His central question was simple – “Can there be freedom without love?” His question was so simple that it caused a reverberating silence – “Can there be freedom without love?” The obvious but difficult answer is “no!” To live without love allows for resentment to grow. And when we allow resentment to grow, we look outside ourselves for answers. We blame others; we become discouraged; we rationalize hateful actions. We turn from whom we are called to be. We turn from a love that can shape and inspire us. We compromise our possibility and our ability in Christ to embrace our given moments in time – this gift of life given us by our creator. And this inability or unwillingness to love as we have been loved is the opposite of freedom.
Like the compelling Old Testament story of Esther, I believe we are called for such a time as this – regardless of the complexities and challenges along the road. I believe we are called to bring hope into a broken world. I believe this is our time to strive and work for a world that is not neutral and to courageously speak for and with the Gospel values that shape our witness. I believe we are called to reflect the great and new commandment—to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this we will find freedom and purpose. So may we each love boldly and concretely as we consider the answer to the question, “What will you do with your moment in time?”
It is with both sadness and resurrection hope that we report the death of Rev. Jean Howard Morton, who went to be with the Lord on Monday 20th May 2019. Rev. Jean Morton was an Honorably Retired minister, and was a long-time member of Aston Presbyterian Church for many years. She was the benefactor who sponsored their Salisbury Labyrinth which all enjoy. Rev. Jean Morton was a resident of Sugar Hill, Georgia. There will be no formal services, to express condolences, please sign the Flanigan Funeral Home online guest book at www.flaniganfuneralhome.com, or call Junior E. Flanigan (770) 932-1133.
Please keep the family of Rev. Jean Howard Morton in your prayers.