An Invitation to Dream With Us

A little more than a year ago, the Synod of the Northeast invited representatives from each of the seven presbyteries in New Jersey to a 24-hour conversation at a conference center in Princeton. Ruth Boling, Lynn Rubier-Capron, and I joined that gathering where the possibility was raised of aligning the presbytery boundaries in New Jersey according to mission.

From that first meeting, and a second day-long follow-up, each presbytery was again asked to identify one or two persons who would intentionally work on what would be called the Missional Structures Task Group. This group was formed in response to an Overture by the Presbytery of Monmouth asking the Synod to –

“…create a working group including representatives from the seven
geographic presbyteries of New Jersey to:

  1. Work with those presbyteries to ascertain their needs and goals,
  2. Examine the present boundaries and structures of those presbyteries,
  3. Consider the possibility of redrawing presbytery boundaries, and
  4. Make recommendations to the Synod.”

Doris Peterson and Laura Phillips have faithfully represented Newark Presbytery on that working group. The result of that working group is the “An Invitation to Dream With Us” document which not only gives the rationale for forming the group, but the group’s process, and an invitation to dream with them.

To that end, reflection questions have been created and listening sessions scheduled in each of the seven presbyteries. Newark’s listening session will be held during our November 10 presbytery meeting at the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair.

Let’s dream together!

-Barbara Smith

Ministry and Meetings Photos

We loved your summer ministry pictures, and we’d love to see and share more pictures from all of your ministries!

We also would like for anyone who regularly attends the Presbytery Meetings to please share photos from any recent meetings. If you will be attending the next Presbytery Meeting and are interested taking photos, please email us to discuss details. Thank you!

Please use the form below to upload your best ministry pictures.

Experience the Holy Land with Rev. Dan Martian

Deposit of $300 due as soon as possible.  Final payment deadline: 11/26/18

Conflict Transformation Skills Workshop

The Presbytery of Newark is looking for churches interested in participating in a one-day workshop on conflict transformation skills.

The Newark Presbytery is at a crossroads and is intentionally leveraging our best self and deciding how we want to show up for the next generations. We are offering an opportunity for all congregations to prepare for the inevitable human conflict that enters our lives, even in the church. This is not just for churches in conflict now; everyone will benefit from learning these skills as we all navigate critical conversations in all facets of life.

We will share with you the materials of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center presented by facilitators trained in transforming conflict from a negative mindset to one of inclusivity, creativity, and curiosity. We will also learn more about what mediation is in the church and when to use it most effectively.

If your church is interested in participating or would like more information, please see the flyer below and email Karen Noble.

 

Transitional Ministry Education at Princeton

Change is inevitable. Transition is optional.
We worship a God who is eternal and a savior who is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” yet changes occur at a dizzying pace around and within our congregations. Navigating the tension between our ever-changing world and the never-changing truths of our faith — making transitions to new ways of being the church — requires faithful, skillful leadership. In the PC(USA), the Transitional Ministry Education Consortium (TMEC) seeks to cultivate and equip leaders for such a time as this.
Both introductory and advanced programs (known as “Week 1” and Week 2”) are offered at Princeton Theological Seminary in early October. Registration is still open, so please forward this information to your pastors as soon as possible.
…or check out other upcoming opportunities on the TMEC website.

OUR CHILDREN WANT TO HELP

The Jerry Can curriculum nurtures and encourages our children’s natural desire to help people in need.

Jerry Can represents the one common denominator in all disasters around the world: the need for clean water to survive. The Jerry Can cartoon was created to be a fun, energetic character for children to connect with as they learn how to respond to disasters with prayer and generosity.

This five-lesson resource, separated by grade level, makes an excellent program for a Sunday school series or a week-long Bible School. The curriculum includes:

  • Lessons with Jerry Can, written by Christian educators
  • Map exercises to teach children about our global community
  • Fun-to-do arts, crafts, and games to extend the learning experience
  • Science experiments blended with words from the Psalms
  • Ways children can respond to help others
  • Suggestions for music and snacks (recipes included)

May 22 Presbytery Meeting Recap

On Saturday, May 12, the Presbytery of Newark gathered for its first official meeting as a Presbytery since the Newark Administrative Commission came in at the Presbytery’s invitation.

It was a wonderful meeting! So much so that Elder Doris Peterson commented that a dream of hers had come true – we spent more time talking about mission than we did talking about money!

As part of the meeting we installed Elder Warren McNeill as Stated Clerk, we commissioned Brittany Heun to Montreat, North Carolina, as a Young Adult Volunteer, and we commissioned Rev. Ruth Boling and Elder Lorraine Cuffie as Commissioners, and Emma Gritsch as Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis, Missouri.

We rejoiced with Katherine Scott-Kirschner and the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair. Katherine will be ordained and installed as PCUM’s Associate Pastor on Sunday, June 3 at 3:00 pm. And we also rejoiced with Rev. Ming-Chen (Grace) Lo Rohrer and the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of North Jersey. Grace will be installed as their Pastor on Saturday, June 9 at 11:00 am.

We said thank you to Elder Victoria Andrade for her service to the Presbytery, and to the Newark Administrative Commission for their leadership, guidance, and support!

Our nurture portion of the meeting was a panel discussion around an article that pointed out that millennials were not around in what some of us call the “glory days” of the church. The outstanding voices that comprised the panel were Brittany Heun, Katherine Scott-Kirschner, Nick Wallwork, Liz Hathaway, and Kathryn Threadgill.

And last, but not least, we shared worship and Communion. I’ve been wondering for a while now what letter the Apostle Paul might write to the Presbytery of Newark. Rev. Ruth Boling delivered an amazing sermon and in it she shared her “First Epistle to the Newarkians” using Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as a model…

Ruth’s First Epistle to the Newarkians

If we speak in the tongues of Calvin or of Niebuhr,
but do not have love,
we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if we have exegetical powers
and remember all our Greek and Hebrew
and understand all Schleiermacher
and if we can quote the Book of Order on demand
and wield parliamentary procedure
so as to remove logistical mountains
(decently and in order, of course)
but do not have love,
we are nothing.

If our churches pay all their per capita
and if they also hand over their mission pledges so that they
may boast,
but we do not have love, we will have gained nothing.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not conservative or progressive,
it is not red or purple or blue.

Love does not insist on its own theological position;
It does not have to be right all the time.
It does not have to win every argument.
Love is not irritable or resentful or snarky.
It doesn’t gossip.
It never exults in someone else’s missteps,
but rejoices in God’s truth.

Love withstands whatever hardships or annoyances come its way.
Love believes “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.”
Love chooses to be hopeful in all circumstances.
Love puts up with a lot of nonsense.
Love never ends. (If it did, it wouldn’t be love.)

But as for Presbytery meetings, they will come to an end;
as for policies and procedures, they will cease to be important;
as for church litigation and administrative commissions,
they too will come to an end.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly.
For now we know only in part;
For now we will never get things more than partially right.

But one day we will see face to face.
One day we will know fully.
One day we will get it right: for one day we will
cast our crowns before the Lord,
lost in wonder, faith and perfect praise!

But, for now, and for the foreseeable future,
faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these…. is love.

Thirst for Life

Thirst For Life is a song written to support Living Waters for the World (LWW), and subsequently recorded by YouTube “super group” Cimorelli with an accompanying video showing our work in Cuba.
You are invited to share the video with your youth groups and wider congregations, helping raise awareness of LWW and showing how your church can be engaged in the vital work of seeking clean water for all.

Living Waters for the World has been a grass-roots success story, training church teams from virtually every Presbytery in the denomination, resulting in over 900 water system installations in 25 nations, bringing clean water to hundreds of thousands. For many in the communities served by LWW, Presbyterians are considered the “water people,” bringing health, hope and Christ’s love in a tangible way.

For more information on Living Waters for the World, and how your community can get involved, check out their website!

With a Calling for Racial Reconciliation, Reverend Brings Social Injustice to the Forefront

Story originally published in Fordham News, from Fordham University

by Tanisia Morris

Several years ago, the Rev. Terri Ofori was leading a prayer service at a university chapel that was open to all members of its community when an older alumnus approached her with a prayer request.

“He said, ‘I have an issue and I need your prayers,’” recalled Ofori. “He said, ‘When I was a student here back in the ‘60s, there were no women, and there were certainly no people that looked like you here, and I’m having a hard time adjusting.’”

Ofori, who is the chaplain to the Synod Commission of the Synod of the Northeast PC(USA), suggested that they meet over breakfast to talk.

“I think he thought that I was going to be upset, but I told him I could relate to feeling marginalized,” she said, explaining that instead of having a “knee-jerk” reaction to his comment, she sought to spark a conversation. “He thought he was marginalized too—even though he had a lot of privilege. In his mind, he was being pushed to the side.”

The interaction was one of many experiences that made her realize that race remains a sensitive topic in many churches.

“I’ve always felt that I was called for racial reconciliation,” said Ofori, who serves as the college chaplain and director of spiritual life at Bloomfield College. “I believe the Church should lead the way in racial reconciliation and inclusion of all people.”

As an interim transitional pastor, Ofori has helped integrate Protestant churches in the Northeast and provided guidance to church leaders seeking to strengthen their ministry. She has served as chaplain in a number of institutions, including Brown University, Wellesley, Emerson, Simmons College, and Harvard.

Most recently, Ofori, who is currently studying Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE – Fordham University), was one of three religious leaders who were selected as a Robert L. Washington Scholar. Representing the Africa diaspora, she is the first woman in the Synod to be accepted to the inaugural two-year program.

“We meet as a cohort with a team of leaders and we talk about leadership issues as it pertains to our community and what’s needed,” said Ofori, who recently visited Ghana, West Africa to meet with church leaders about women’s leadership in the country. “What we’re finding is that leadership models in the past have been mostly centered on white males. This is an opportunity to get people of color in leadership roles.”

Rocking the Boat

Though Ofori always knew that ministering to others was her destiny, she didn’t always feel comfortable in the spotlight.

“I never wanted to be in charge because of the perception that women had to be quiet and submissive,” she said. “But I realized that women are actually called to be leaders.”

She found inspiration in her ministry from the courageous stories of Catholic saints after taking Women Mystics with Shannon M. McAlister, Ph.D., assistant professor of spirituality at GRE.  Contemplative Action, a course taught by her advisor Fr. Francis X McAloon, S.J., also helped her to approach multidimensional issues like race and social injustice, she said.

“One of the things that I have learned from Catholic teachings is the quiet contemplation that comes before action,” she said. “A lot of times, people don’t want to rock the boat. In challenging situations, people may ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’  Some people think he would just fold his hands and pray, but he was a person of contemplation and action. He was a social justice figure, and he was actually controversial in that he challenged power structures.”

Having been born into poverty to a teenage mother in Philadelphia, Ofori said she faced many obstacles throughout her childhood. She found solace in an after-school program at a local church, where some of the teachers would sing gospel songs as they welcomed the students off of the school bus. With the help of scholarships, she went on to pursue degrees in theology, formation, and ministry.

Standing Up for the Vulnerable

These days, she is determined to pay it forward. An interim minister of the United Church of Spring Valley in Rockland County, New York, Ofori believes that religious leaders and institutions have an obligation to stand up for vulnerable members in society.

Her convictions led her co-found the Pan African Youth Leadership Academy (P.A.Y.L.A.) Project with her husband David Ofori Jr., an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). P.A.Y.L.A. provides academic support and leadership development to at-risk black youth in the New York metropolitan area. Rev. Ofori also leads a support group for minority women at Bloomfield who are grappling with issues such as homelessness, mental health, and poverty.

“Sometimes people don’t feel good about themselves because they’re not told good things about themselves,” she said. “I always tell them that you don’t always know where people come from and the struggles they’ve had to overcome. I do this because of where I came from.”

From the Vision Accountability Board

In 2016, the Presbytery of Newark sent the following overture to the 222nd General Assembly. This overture was ultimately passed with the bracketed and underlined text included:

“The Presbytery of Newark respectfully overtures the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to do the following:”

1. Encourage the ministries and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be aware of the presence of slavery [and forced labor] in international chains of commerce.

2. Encourage the ministries and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to inquire of each vendor with which they do business (a) that the vendor [ascertain and/or] disclose the nature and extent of slavery [and forced labor] in its supply chains, (b) that the vendor disclose the programs and strategies that it has adopted to eradicate slavery [and forced labor] from its supply chains, and (c) that the vendor provide to the inquiring ministry or agency those reports, analyses, and other materials that confirm or otherwise illuminate the vendor’s representations.

3. Encourage the ministries and agencies that invest in companies to inquire of each company in which they make an investment (a) that the company [ascertain and/or] disclose the nature and extent of slavery [and forced labor] in its supply chains, (b) that the company disclose the programs and strategies that it has adopted to eradicate slavery [and forced labor] from its supply chains, and (c) that the company provide to the inquiring ministry or agency those reports, analyses, and other materials that confirm or otherwise illuminate the company’s representations.

4. Encourage the ministries and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do business with and make investments in those companies that (a) have a rigorous program intended to eradicate slavery [and forced labor] from their supply chains and (b) disclose those reports and other information that enable the ministries and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and such other persons as may be interested, to understand and evaluate the program that is intended to eradicate slavery [and forced labor] from the company’s supply chains.”

Barbara Smith recently received an e-mail from Bob Boneberg, a member of Wyoming Presbyterian Church asking if the Presbytery of Newark might consider co-sponsoring an all-faith conference in Essex County so that “the different faiths may share (1) their understanding of the issue of modern slavery, (2) how the issue is addressed, if at all, within their faith, (3) resources that they may have created with respect to the issue, and (4) any common or joint initiatives that might be undertaken.” This event is being slated for some time in May.

The VAB, at their meeting on February 13, voted unanimously to co-sponsor this event, especially in light of the overture we sent to the 222nd General Assembly. Bob writes that there will be minimal, if any, demand on Presbytery resources. Bob will be present at our May Presbytery meeting to talk further about this effort.

Should you wish to become more personally involved, Bob can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 973.886.6576.