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Focus on Ministry: Bethany Church, Bloomfield

bethany pres bloomfield

In our Wednesday Focus on Ministry posts, we hope to introduce you to your Newark Presbytery neighbors and their unique ministries. Today we are highlighting Bethany Presbyterian Church, in Bloomfield, where they like to simply go by Bethany Church.

We love what Bethany Church in Bloomfield has to say about itself:

Just before World War II, a handful of local Christians started the “Bethany Presbyterian Church” in a humble store front in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Today, Bethany Church members come from as close as a few streets away to as far as a few counties away for Sunday service, numerous activities and events and fellowship. We are multiethnic and multicultural; we are seniors, singles, married couples and children. No matter what your circumstance, ethnicity, family make-up or background, you are welcome here. At Bethany, we embrace all people with the amazing love of God.

Bethany Church is proudly multicultural and active in local and global mission that connects their members to their community and the world in Christ. They are engaged with their local food bank, mission trips to the Philippines, support missionaries, and sponsor children through World Vision. You can learn more about Bethany Church, including their active youth and children’s ministries, check out all of their outreach opportunities, and listen to sermons on their website. Whether you are looking for a church home, or just want to get to know your Newark Presbytery neighbors a bit better, this is a good place to start.


In our original profile we mentioned the mission work that Bethany Church engages in, not just locally, but throughout the world, including trips to the Philippines to work with mission partners in person. We are blessed to have an update from Bethany’s most recent trip in July:

2016 Philippines Short-Term Missions Report
by Pastor Jin Bae

Arriving in the Philippines

Arriving in the Philippines

Team: Pastors Jin Bae & Emily Kim, Jonathan Ahn, Charis Bae, Simone Byun, Angie Son, Jake Son, Alyson Yun & Haley Yun

I want to thank our God for calling and assembling, and then training and equipping the team that went to Samar, Philippines in July 5-18. We went as God’s will and as Bethany’s representatives. I want to thank our elders and Bethany for keeping us in your prayers.

While the trip was for 14 days, the planning for it took two years. From late 2014, the missions committee led by Youngsook raised funds through kimchee selling twice and yard sale twice. And the first information meeting for this trip was held in November 2015, to the youths in December 2015, and another meeting in January 2016 before the team was assembled in early February.



For this trip, Youngsook and I decided that we will not ask for any church funds (other than my personal Study Leave fund to cover my JFK-Incheon airfare). Asking the members to pay for their airfare from JFK-Incheon, we decided to fundraise the rest, and by God’s grace, we raised more than enough. In fact, we brought back $1,775 for future missions work.

Our training began in early April and ran weekly for 3 hours at a time. We began with praise and prayer and studied the Bible, Filipino culture and language, and cross-cultural dynamics (what we might encounter and how we must process for a healthy experience). We also learned songs and prepared for various ministries, knowing that our team’s main ministry will be with the children. Pastors also expected to preach whenever called upon.



Along with smaller ministries (Meeting with college ministry in the city, participating in an all-day high school event), we went to visit and live among the locals at two villages, Magsaysay and Bante. In both villages, we ran children’s programs (twice), a film ministry at night, door to door visitations, and spent our free time getting to know the locals.



As for the most effective program, it had to be the passing out of color T-shirts. We purchased 420 shirts in all and passed out everything at a cost of $600. The color T-shirts created an immediate buzz, and it helped the children to focus and organize into teams – they lined up quickly, rooted for each other, and followed instructions excitedly. Rev. Dan Kim, the executive director of SICAP told us that in 20 years that he’s been there, he’s never had a team use color T-shirts that way. That made us quite happy – we might have started a trend.

wrap-up 1But our primary focus was on making friends and building relationships, not on running effective programs and feeling good about ourselves. We believed that when we focus on building relationships, we become open and sensitive, careful with the locals and loving in our behavior. Our team never wavered from this focus and made us very proud.

In the end, we give glory to God for his faithfulness. We had a few that got sick and many struggled with skin rashes and mosquito bites, and the heat and humidity was consistently heavy on us, but our team’s spirit was always up and positive. You should be very proud of the team and our youths.

wrap-up 2

Focus on Ministry: Synod of the Northeast

As Newark Presbytery explores its future, and rebuilds the structures and mission to support that future, our partners in this process are the Synod of the Northeast and the other presbyteries of the synod. Today, we wanted to share a bit about ministry of the Synod of the Northeast through their guiding New Way Forward statement, a missional statement that was created through deep conversations, discernment and prayer as the synod sought to explore its own future.

Synod of the Northeast

A New Way Forward is a foundational document in the current day life of the Synod of the Northeast.


We understand our Synod as a regional community of PCUSA presbyteries and their congregations committed to serving as supportive mutual partners. It is the responsibility of this regional community to walk alongside its presbyteries, offering the kinds of resourcing presbyteries are unable to provide alone. The Synod exists to serve its presbyteries through resourcing, guidance and the ability to gather partners on a larger scale. Drawing upon its regional size and diversity, the Synod provides valuable resources and opportunities for its presbyteries. The Synod also provides creative and less encumbered space for innovation. With governance simplified and without the intense relational and governance demands faced by most presbyteries, the Synod can be a place where creativity might be allowed to flourish.


This is the vision God has placed in our hearts, that together we will become witnesses to the ever-expanding community of Christ, following his way: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) We are a regional community of presbyteries and congregations learning to respond to God’s call to become agents of divine justice, transforming the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the Northeast into a community of hospitality and welcome for all. We recognize that we have not always lived into the gift of our great diversity. We have not always fully welcomed all those within the communities we serve, including people of different racial or ethnic identities, economic classes, genders, abilities, sexualities, immigration statuses, or those who are marginalized in other ways. Finding deep joy in our differences, we commit to equipping the saints for a courageous and steadfast witness of love and hope; learning, growing, worshiping and working together.

For the history of the New Way Forward process, and full statement, including translations into Spanish and Korean, as well as more about the Synod of the Northeast, you can see it here.

Presbyterian Youth Triennium 2016 pictures

Here are some pictures from this year’s Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University. We’ll add more as we get them!

General Assembly Wrap-Up

The 222nd General Assembly is a couple weeks behind us, but the work of the General Assembly is not confined to a week of meetings, but continues on, from local churches to presbyteries and synods to the national church. Here is a summary of some of the major work and decisions to come out of Portland, and some links to thoughts others have in response to the work the PC(USA) did in Portland, and has before us.

For the short and sharable version, the Office of the General Assembly offers a downloadable version of a bulletin insert – “The Assembly in Brief” – which you can use with your congregations to share what happened at the 22nd General Assembly.

Here are our short takes on GA 222:

Some history was made.

  • IMG_4993Almost exactly 50 years after being in Portland for GA in 1967, where the Confession of 1967 was affirmed, the long process of adding the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.
  • After the rule changes made at the 221st General Assembly, we were able to elect co-moderators, and so we had two sets of co-moderators stand for election, Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston and Adan Mairena and David Parker. Ultimately, Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston prevailed.
  • We elected our first non-white GA Stated Clerk, 3rd generation Presbyterian pastor, J. Herbert Nelson.

This is all historical as we are a church that continues to be reformed through confession, reconciliation and transformation, all work of the Holy Spirit. The important thing is to follow through. Embracing leadership that looks more like the church we hope for does not mean we have reached the end of the journey. We are not done with this work, and we never will be.

We still don’t agree on everything.

Though this General Assembly was largely calm and uncontentious, don’t think that Presbyterians are of one mind on every issue. And it is a great thing. Without disagreement and discussion, we might end up doing some things we’ll later regret. We will still do things we will later regret, but having all the voices in the conversation helps us find our way back to the right path again. And, sometimes the path changes. Embracing many voices helps us be more open to and better navigate change. How we have these conversations is important. Throughout the Portland GA there were many examples of people with very different viewpoints coming together to do this work with love and care for one another, without having to agree all the time.

Some of the things we are working through as a church, and are likely to come up again:

  • Fossil Fuel Divestment – this went one way in committee, with the Immigration and Environmental Issues Committee voting to divest all but a small portion of investment in the fossil fuel industry, but the full body of the General Assembly deciding to follow more closely with the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Commission’s suggestion to continue selective, phased divestment and full corporate engagement to discuss the issues of fossil fuels and climate change.
  • Israel and Palestine – Though reaffirming the PC(USA)’s current preference for a two-state solution, GA222 followed the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) recommendations to re-evaluate that stance as we continue to seek ways to best support a peaceful relationship between Israel and Palestine.
    This is also while seeking to advocate especially for the human rights of children throughout Israel and Palestine, to study boycott-divest-sanction (BDS) options and to call on realty company RE/MAX to “do everything within its legal and moral power to stop facilitating the sale and rental of property in Israeli settlement colonies,” in continued conversation with the company, which has already responded favorably to current discussions with church representatives.
  • PMA/OGA merger – The two main bodies that do the day-to-day work of the PC(USA), the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) underwent reviews this year that led to recommendations to merge the two bodies into one. The committee charged with thinking about the future structures of the PC(USA) at this General Assembly, The Way Forward Committee, started meeting before the rest of the assembly, knowing their discussions might take extra time and care.
    Ultimately they authorized an administrative commission of no more than 12 members “to study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly agencies of the PC(USA),” and with the authority to “describe and implement a General Assembly-level staffing pattern that will accomplish its vision.” The commission is to “engage a qualified examination team to assess institutional performance both internally among the agencies and externally as they interface with the congregations.”
    So, no merger for now, but some important work ahead for that administrative commission as they attempt to help the PC(USA) create a structure that fits how the church needs to work today.
  • Number of Synods – The assembly voted to rescind the action of the 221st GA, which sought to decrease the overall number of synods from 16 to 10-12 by redistributing the boundaries of the synods. The discussions around this issue have to do with the purpose of synods in a time when communication between local churches, presbyteries and the national church have been made much more simple, but also recognizing that some synods are doing work that simply cannot be duplicated. The vote to rescind the action of GA221 was not without the added commentary that synods continue to coordinate mission and ministry between each other, and to be vigilant about self-evaluation, to not simply exist for existing.
  • Reversing the reversed history? – Once Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders, they became Ministers of Word and Sacrament/Pastors and Elders in our Constitution, only to go back to being Teaching and Ruling Elders in the New Form of Government approved in 2012, and back again to Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Elders (and, proposed: Commissioned Pastors to replace the previous terms Commissioned Lay Pastor, now Commissioned Ruling Elder).
    The sticky issues here have to do with how Presbyterians view call and ministry in different ways than many other denominations. We do not truly have “lay” officers in leadership – one is ordained to a specific office in leadership, whether Minister of Word and Sacrament/Teaching Elder, Ruling Elder, Deacon or Commissioned Pastor/Ruling Elder. At the same time, ruling elders can and should be called upon to preach and teach, and many teaching elders do not simply or even primarily have teaching as their main focus. The struggle between these terms is partly about parity – no one office has hierarchy over another either in call or actuality – and partly about finding terms that define, but do not limit the possibilities inherent in these calls (which are expanded upon beyond the simplistic terminology in the Book of Order).
    What will come up in the discussions at the presbytery level as they decide whether to make these changes will be interesting to watch. Whether or not this comes up again as a discussion for the national church at a future General Assembly, this seemingly small change is about how we view our call to God’s work and how we do our work together, so the struggle is understandable.

And more.

  • Revised Directory for Worship – While not too controversial or historic, in that it is not a radically new thing for the PC(USA), after 27 years, there has been a full revision approved for the Directory for Worship. Those tasked with the update worked for 12 years to create a document that responds to changing styles and language used in and around the creation and activity of worship. You can see the full proposed revisions here.
  • Child Protection Policy – In 2014, the General Assembly approved a change in the Book of Order to require all church councils to adopt and implement child protection policies, which went into effect last year. This includes the General Assembly, which passed their version this year. These changes were made in response to too many cases of abuse falling through the cracks or being swept under the rug, allowing abusers to continue to hurt children and other vulnerable people. One of these stories was powerfully shared with the committee and whole assembly by a victim of abuse by a pastor, the victim now a pastor himself.
  • Peacemaking – The General Assembly considered and approved 5 new affirmations for our work in peacemaking that was the result of 6 years of discernment and study. Like the revisions for the Directory for Worship, these 5 affirmations are not a radical new direction, but rather provide clarity and fresh thinking and language around the PC(USA)’s work to seek and create peace.
  • Per Capita Increase – In addition to a proposed increase already on the table, in response to the cost of the work General Assembly set forth for itself, an increase of $0.35 over two years was approved. An increase of $0.17 per capita in 2017 and $0.18 per capita in 2018, in addition to the already proposed increases will increase the total per capita to $7.73 by the end of 2018.

Behind the scenes/In the streets

General Assembly always has a lot more happening than any one person participating realizes or could do even if they did know about it all. Some of the things going on behind-the-scenes, and beyond the walls were:

  • Connection and support of the unhoused in Portland – several different groups attending GA sought to connect to and support people in Portland who are living outside of permanent shelter.
  • Gift to Portland – As a gift to Portland, commissioners and other GA participants were encouraged to donate to the Oregon Food Bank, chosen as a beneficiary by the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA).
  • Prayer. There is always a room specifically designated for prayer at each General Assembly. Though you can pray anywhere, and there is prayer to open and close meetings, meals and other gatherings, sometimes you just need to get into a different space, away from the hustle and bustle of assembly business and activity. This year the room had a labyrinth and other helpful things to center ones thoughts and prayers. But in addition…there are always people praying for you at GA. People who have volunteered to come and simply pray. In committee rooms, on the plenary floor, in the halls, ceaselessly. If you were there, you probably wouldn’t notice them, simply sitting or walking, quietly praying for all those engaged in discussions, supporting committees, running about, and for the work we are all trying to accomplish together. It’s pretty amazing, when you stop to think about all the prayer that is happening to help us on the way.
  • Dependent Care Reimbursement – For the first time commissioners to General Assembly had the option of applying for dependent care funding, to spend in a variety of ways, to allow increased participation by those who have children or others relying on them for care needs. In addition to funding to provide support, a room was set aside and set up for those attending with children, including a private space for nursing mothers.
  • Process Observation – There are people who just observe how the PC(USA) does its work. In addition to all the committee and plenary support staff, recording official votes and decisions, there was an opportunity for observers without other official functions to help record what was happening by observing and noting who spoke, how often, and how long (for example), in committee and plenary sessions. A special application and training was available for those interested in helping in this unique way. Process observation is about noting who participates and how they participate in our work. In order to do our work well, we need to make sure all voices are both encouraged and heard, and process observation can help the PC(USA) evaluate that participation. Fascinating.
  • Ruling Elders celebrated – Even as the assembly discussed the terminology of our leadership offices, one of the important features of that debate is, and has been, the observation that often the importance of our ruling elders is overlooked, even by our elders themselves. A special point was made in this General Assembly to recognize and lift up the call of ruling elders.
  • Student Assistants – Or “Blue Smocks,” as they are also affectionately called. A host of seminarians doing the quite literal behind-the-scenes work. Busy passing on messages, making copies, assisting with technology, you will see them all over the assembly, but you won’t see them for very long. Thank you, Student Assistants, for helping this whole thing happen!

More observations from GA.

Here are some more responses to the whole assembly from those attending General Assembly, from observer to commissioner to committee leader:

Here is Greg Allen-Pickett’s 5 Important Outcomes of General Assembly

Leon Bloder was a Teaching Elder Commissioner from Central Florida Presbytery, and reflected on his time at GA throughout the Assembly. These are his post-Assembly thoughts.

Cynthia Jarvis, who served as Vice Moderator of The Way Forward Committee, shares how now might be a time of listening and taking a breath, simply sitting in the great silence God can offer us, instead of great storms and flurry.

Peace, Newark Presbytery

Congratulations to Andre Rocha

Congratulations to Andre Rocha on his Ordination last Sunday at Fifth Avenue as he joins Newark Presbytery to serve at Wolff Memorial.

The ordination service was held on Sunday, June 26, 2016 at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, 7 W 55th St – New York, NY at 6pm.

PC(USA) Leaders Issue Post-General Assembly Letter to the Church

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a new season in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as witnessed by the actions of the 222nd General Assembly (2016). The body of 594 commissioners who gathered June 18-25 in Portland, Oregon, elected Co-Moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, and J. Herbert Nelson as the Stated Clerk. Both were historic, and both signal a new way forward for our church.

The business decisions made by the body also were transformative for the 1,572,660 members and 9,642 churches of the PC(USA). The work wasn’t easy, and involved careful deliberations. Collectively, the body acted on nearly 100 overtures by discerning the will of Christ.

Among other things, we now have a new addition to our Book of Confessions – the Confession of Belhar. It is the first of our confessions that comes from the global south. And, the PC(USA) has a new Directory for Worship; and Child/Youth/Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy and Procedures. God is truly guiding us to be more faithful and just to all of God’s creations.

Much discussion has been taking place around the identity and purpose of the denomination, and this week the assembly voted to create a 12-member Way Forward Commission “to study and identify a vision for the structure and function of the General Assembly agencies of the PC(USA),” and a 15-member 2020 Vision Team to “develop a guiding statement for the denomination and make a plan for its implementation.”

To quote Stated Clerk-elect J. Herbert Nelson, “We are not dead … we are alive, we are reforming and we are transforming this world, one person at a time.”

Looking outward, the assembly voted to engage in selective, phased divestment from fossil-fuel companies through the PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, and re-affirmed a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine.

Please know this is only a snapshot of the actions taken, and just a glimpse at where God is leading this denomination. Complete business actions can be viewed at

We are, brothers and sisters, in a new season. It’s exciting, but also a little scary. Yet in the midst of it all, take comfort that God is still guiding and controlling all – and we need not fear. God is calling us to hope, and to God be the glory! 

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

The Reverend Denise Anderson and the Reverend Jan Edmiston
Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly (2016)

Ruling Elder Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency

J. Herbert Nelson elected General Assembly Stated Clerk

J Herbert NelsonA lot of historical things happening at General Assembly this week, including electing our first man of color as General Assembly Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson. See more here.


GA 222 Elects Anderson and Edmiston as Co-Moderators

jan denise

Teaching Elder Jan Edmiston and Teaching Elder Denise Anderson

The Presbyterian Outlook’s article on the Moderator election of the 22nd General Assembly:

PC(USA) Response to the Orlando Shootings

Presbyterian Church (USA) Response to Shootings at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub

Prayer in Response to Orlando Shootings

Join Bethel PC as it Celebrates 145 Years of Ministry!

To God Be the Glory! Bethel Presbyterian Church is celebrating 145 years of Ministry! All are invited as the celebrate being a “Beacon on this Corner”, Dodd Street and Midland Avenue, East Orange, NJ. When? Sunday, November 22, 2015 begins the Glorious Celebration! 11:00 a.m. Sunday Worship Service. Thanksgiving Anniversary Luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Anniversary Celebration program at 2:00 p.m. All are welcome!