Thursday, June 9th, 2022
Lifting up Prayers
Recently, I attended the Coldplay concert with 60,000 other fans at Levi Stadium. In the middle of the show, the lead singer, Chris Martin, asked the crowd to look at the moon slowly rising above the stadium and say a prayer for Ukraine and the tragedy in Buffalo. Sixty thousand raucous fans went quiet. I do not know how many in the stadium may have any faith in a higher being, but I felt at one with them, praying to God for several minutes for the tragedies around us. Prayer is so needed these days.
A few Sundays ago, in the Gospel Lectionary passage, Jesus tells his disciples, “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) The daily news reminds us just how far we are as a people from following Jesus’ words. As I was writing this note to lift up prayers for mass shooting tragedies two weekends ago, news of another mass shooting at an elementary school popped up on my computer screen. So far, 19 kids and several adults have died from a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. I can’t imagine what that community is going through. Less than two weeks ago, in a predominately Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, ten people were shot by a hateful, racist 18-year-old. All ten who died were Black. On the same weekend, a gunman entered the Irvine Taiwanese American Presbyterian Church and began shooting as the congregation members enjoyed a fellowship lunch together after worship. This church is one of our PCUSA sister churches in Los Ranchos Presbytery in Southern California. One member died, and several others were injured. Around the country, hate and violence against Asians continue to grow.
As we commemorate the second anniversary of the death of George Floyd, we as a country and society still view Black bodies with disdain and not as equals. There is much suspicion and prejudice against asylum seekers, especially those from Mexico and Central America. We have much work to do as the presbytery, the church, and as disciples of Jesus Christ to live into love as Jesus asks of us.
So even as we work on these issues together as a presbytery to transform ourselves and our communities, we ask you to pray and go where God moves you. And continue to love one another, your church, your presbytery, and the world. It continues to be a joy and privilege to serve alongside you in our presbytery.
With much love and prayers,
Partner for Congregational Vitality and Clergy Support
Monday, May 16th, 2022
Dear Siblings of PSF,
As the newest Executive Partner I want to greet and thank all of you who came to the May 10, 2022 Presbytery meeting and approved me for this position, as well as those who served on the Selection Committee. I look forward to doing the work.
My sense of call for this position is very strong. I was invited to join the Finance & Property Oversight (FPOC) Committee in the Fall of 2020. A few months after Leonard died in August of 2021, I heard the scripture about Moses and the burning bush. Not me, it was easy to say, but I was convicted by Moses’ fear that the people would not follow him. I decided that if the job were advertised, I would fearlessly make myself available. Later a mentor reminded me that this is a pastoral position. The shepherd tends the sheep and they follow her. This position uses all my professional skills, my work in Belfast and my heart’s desire to help the church and to shepherd her people. Less you think I’m too old, my mother worked until she was 81. There is only work and rest and doing the Lord’s work until we are called home.
What kind of leader am I? I am a ‘people and task’ leader, interested in the well-being of the group and interested in getting the job done. I am a problem solver/decision maker. I am collaborative and lead by example. I want to engage as many stakeholders as possible. I answer all emails and return phone calls. Please be in contact if I can help you or your church with mission and church asset issues. Contact me early if you need actions for full Presbytery or Committee approval. Please reach out if you think you can help me with information or resources. email@example.com or 510.849.4393 ext 303.
Marda Quon Stothers, Partner of Mission & Church Assets
Monday, September 20th
Update from your Presbytery Partners
Dear Siblings of PSF,
It’s been a few weeks now that we lost our dear partner and friend, Rev. Leonard Nielson. He is now with the eternal Divine, a place where it seems that he worked from constantly while his feet touched the ground. We wanted to connect with you all earlier but needed time to grieve the sudden loss of our beloved partner, time that all who were cared for by Leonard– needed. As we reflected on Leonard’s time with us, we can clearly see the consistency of his love of God and love for the Presbytery in the work he put forth with us. With this important understanding, we want to make sure we continue this care together, in the spirit to which we partners carry and support the ministry of the Presbytery.
When we began this journey as the three Executive Partners of the Presbytery in May of 2020, we each brought our expertise/gifts to the work. How now shall we balance the missing factor in this embodied unit? We all knew that Leonard brought pastoral skills in Finance and property and his wealth of experience as a contractor and an architect. These gifts were so perfectly combined and well suited for his work with our Presbytery. So how are we to manage in the upcoming months within this vacuum left by Leonard? As Presbyterians, we are a connectional church, which was true of our work as executive partners. We have realized that not only his expertise that we valued but also the connectional relationships he built around us. We are grateful for these relationships since we have found the help we need in the short to mid-term.
We have connected with our legal counsel to deal with legal issues around property and trusts in several ongoing projects in our congregations. We have contacted and will work closely with DCG Strategies, a firm specializing in Real Estate and Assets, and with which we have worked closely in the last five years to make sure several other projects go smoothly. We have met with our accountant and treasurer and will continue to meet regularly to make sure finances are in order, and that daily and weekly financial activities go smoothly. We are also working closely with MVL (Mission Vision and Leadership), Personnel, and FPOC (Finance, Property Oversight Committee) to see the best way to continue during this time and discern the next steps. As the last year in a half has taught us, relationship and care are essential; it helps in weathering through the unknown. We want to share the following video as to how Personnel will continue to support the work of the partners and the Presbytery as a whole: https://vimeo.com/609390863
We are in this ministry together in God, and we will use this time wisely to navigate the next steps. Our service with the Presbytery has always been important, and we know that with God’s grace we will walk in this way, always.
A Memorial Service for Leonard (via Zoom) will be held on Sat, October 16th at 11am–an email with more information will be forthcoming.
In Christ’s Peace,
~Jennifer and InHo
Wednesday, MAY 26th
CA Announcement and Re-Opening our Churches
Siblings and Colleagues:
Our State announced last week that on June 15, the color-tiered system of evaluating the health risks from COVID would be dropped altogether. That means we will no longer be in the orange or yellow tier for risk. The upshot for our churches is that there will likely be no mandates in place regulating worship or fellowship, apart from the strong recommendation that unvaccinated people wear masks.
As you make this journey from sheltering in place to the new normal, please remember that your session is responsible for making good decisions on how to reopen. We have been under legal restrictions for nearly 15 months, but now any limits will be put in place by the session of your church.
Please consider all the pastoral implications here:
- Many will be so eager to return that they will assume that there are no more risks, but that is not the case.
- Some will continue to be nervous about the risks of Covid and may not yet be fully ready to return in-person.
- Some may not yet accept Health Department’s guidance that fully vaccinated people do not need masks in many situations.
Please continue to honor the choices of members in ensuring their safety.
For all of us, this has been an emotional and mental health crisis of epic proportions. It has created stress and fear and has sparked strong feelings for protecting ourselves and our loved ones. The effects of the shelter in place orders will take some time to filter through our consciousness and leave us with some peace.
For those of you who are planning or already utilizing health measures such as wiping surfaces with disinfectant or even considering filtered air systems, you will have many more options available to you that were not available even recently. Please read the new health orders when they come out and familiarize yourself with those recommendations, as well as any requirements. (CA COVID-19 Website for information.)
No matter where you are on the “inner work” of coming to terms with the newly-regained ability to hug people, to talk to people in person, and to go outside and shop or dine in safety, let us give thanks. Thank you to our God and creator for blessing us mightily during a time of peril, and for journeying with us through the storm safely. And then let us take a moment to remember those who did not survive, those who did not have access to health care and vaccines that most of us have in this country. And also, remember those who lost jobs and homes and good health. Finally, in gratitude, let us also thank with all our hearts the many people who risked their health to keep us safe: from first responders to health care workers of all kinds, teachers, counselors and factory workers, and even the clerks at our grocery stores.
Hallelujah, the great storm is ending soon; lift up your wings and fly.
– Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Tuesday, APRIL 13th
Instead of Re-opening, perhaps we should see this moment as one of Re-starting
Beloved Sisters and Brothers:
Instead of Re-opening, perhaps we should see this moment as one of Re-starting.
Not just returning to our church life, but reconnecting with our community, those already in our congregation
and those in our neighborhood who have also been living in forced isolation.
Not just resuming our worship but renewing our purpose.
Not just reentering our buildings but reexamining all that we might do with what God has placed in our hands.
Over the years there have been many efforts made in looking at renewing the vitality in our churches. The one that we often called “restarting” involved the rather drastic step of physically moving out of the building for a time, so that the congregation could come back to begin to see with new clarity, and with new intentionality, whatever God had laid it upon their hearts to do. And the time apart from their buildings was meant to be a way to break the familiarity of weekly worship and community life at that one place, so that everyone could get a renewed perspective on why we they were there at all. Only a few congregations choose that radical step.
Several recent and past politicians and business leaders including, reportedly, Winston Churchill, are credited with saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
As the world, our families, our schools, our businesses, our communities and even our churches are slowly starting to recover from the devastation of COVID, perhaps we should embrace that same spirit of this crisis.
I wonder if we have all, quite unwillingly, taken the first step of a “restart”. If so, then we do not want to waste this transformational opportunity simply because we did not see it for what it really was. We may have already taken the hardest step in leaving for a while.
Tuesday, FEBRUARY 23rd
Letter Addressing Violence Towards our Asian Community
Dear Beloved in Christ,
Attacks against Asians are on the rise in the United States. Just this year in the Bay Area:
- A 64-year-old woman was assaulted and robbed after she went to the ATM to get money to celebrate Lunar New Year
- A 91-year-old man was shoved and hospitalized in Oakland’s Chinatown
- A 52-year-old woman was shot in the head with a flare gun in Chinatown
- In San Francisco, an 84-year-old man was smashed to the ground by a young man and died two days later in the hospital.
Stop Hate AAPI center and website (https://stopaapihate.org/) which was created by three agencies, one of which is the Asian American Studies Department of the San Francisco State University, states on their website that the center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in California and where possible throughout the United States. From March to December 2020, there were over 2800 self-reported incidents. Almost half were from California and of those, over 700 were from the Bay Area.
Here are some of their stories:
I was waiting to enter a pharmacy to get my prescription when a group of construction workers (not social distancing) made fun of me by mocking me, fake coughing, spitting at me and making slant eyes gestures until I asked them to stop. No one else called these people out. (Oakland, CA)
I was standing in an aisle at a hardware store when suddenly I was struck from behind. Video surveillance verified the incident in which a white male used his bent elbow to strike my upper back. Subsequent verbal attacks occurred with “Shut up, you Monkey!, “Screw you Chinaman,” “Go back to China” and “Stop bringing that Chinese virus over here.” (San Francisco, CA)
On my daily walk in my hometown Sausalito, I was wearing a face mask when a white woman yelled at me, “I hate Chinese people! Why do they come to this country?!” when she passed me. I was stunned by her words which caused me to fear and be more alert of my surroundings.
We were outraged when Hispanic children were separated from their families at the border. We were horrified by the events that lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. And now we are terrified and angry of all the attacks against the Asian community.
We continue to fall short of God intentions for all of us. Our hearts are broken and we feel much grief at what our local communities and this country has become. We stand with all our Asian brothers and sisters during this tumultuous time.
May God continue to hold us in God’s care and guide us as individual, as the church and as the presbytery to be agents of peace and justice in our communities.
With Love and Care,
Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Monday, FEBRUARY 15th
Post-COVID Churching: The Tech Issue
Dear Siblings in Ministry!
We are connecting with you to start looking into what Post-COVID churching looks like. As we are closing in on a full year of the pandemic, it looks like we will soon be entering a phase of indoor worship/work—WOO-HOO! Through this time, we have had to adapt to a new way of churching, while providing support to those under our care—all done with grace and intellect! We’ve been able to utilize technology to share in worship online, take care of session meetings while adhering to polity, and finally building and maintaining relationships through our shared ministry in Christ.
Now as we are starting to move towards re-opening, there’s a new question to consider—do we incorporate the technology we’ve utilized this past year into a hybrid form of church? Many of us have found value in the technology that provides for online /remote work—it’s given us ways to adapt and be nimble during change, the ability to reach out to homebound congregants, and created an avenue to provide ministry to folks who would otherwise not participate in any form of church.
We want to work with you to think about how to keep moving forward with what you’ve learned and how to incorporate it with “churching post-COVID”. Some questions we want you to consider:
- Are you looking to continue a hybrid of in-house and online worship?
- What kind of impact has online technology provided for your church (Some examples might be: more participation on committees, participation in worship service, donation giving)?
- Is you church currently setup to have a hybrid church service with livestreaming—equipment for both audio and visual, hardware and software?
- Does your church have the broadband/internet capacity in place, or will you need to upgrade to ensure smooth streaming?
- Do you have the technical admin support to offer a hybrid of online/in-house worship?
- Do have the funding source to implement the necessary hardware and software for hybrid worship?
These are some of the factors when considering Post-COVID churching, along with associated costs to do a hybrid. The costs are dependent on church needs and wants—addition and/ or upgrade of equipment /software; the costs seem to run between $4k-10k for setup. Monthly costs depend on the church—the size of building, internet cost, software licensing, technical staff, etc. These monthly costs can run between $200-$1000.
We have reached out to a few of our churches who have shared how a hybrid approach to worship post COVID can work. Please read the ATTACHED information.
If you would like to have a conversation about how your church might enter this hybrid phase, please connect with me. We plan to gather more information, possibly connect churches with each other to share experience with livestreaming, and potentially assist in connecting you with the best tech firm to help with your needs.
We want to continue to support your ministry—and we hope this helps!
Friday, FEBRUARY 12th
Letter about COVID precautions and Indoor worship
Dear Siblings and Friends:
On Feb 5th, the Supreme Court issued a decision on California’s ban on indoor worship services, stating that it cannot be upheld. What does this mean for church service in California? This means that indoor service is allowed at 25% capacity, with no singing or chanting (and no eating). Though this ruling was given by the Supreme Court, in California the County Health Departments can still issue more restrictions on indoor worship.
We encourage you to continue to follow:
- the mandates of your County Health Departments
- the guidelines and procedures of CAL OSHA directives around Safety and Cleanliness
- check with your Church Insurance Liability around the Pandemic
Yes, we are slowly seeing the light beyond the tunnel, with the vaccine rollout and the decrease in percentages of COVID cases in the Bay Area, but please continue to be cautious. There are still many who are vulnerable in our midst: our elderly, our sisters & brothers of color to which this pandemic has affected more severely, those with weakened immune systems, those due to income or status do not have access to good or any health care (our immigrant/or undocumented siblings), and finally our frontline workers who need our care as they work hard for all of us. Please continue to be cautious and safe, as we will get through this together.
May Christ’s love and care be the same we share with one another.
Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Alameda County Public Health Department
Contra Costa Health Services
San Francisco Department of Public Health
San Mateo Department of Public Health
The CAL OSHA Guidelines This provides COVID-19 best-practices, with sanitation guidelines for businesses that serve the public (which include churches), and those protocols need to be either performed by the churches or else the churches need to ensure that the guidelines are being followed.
Sample of Safety Policy (Shared with PSF by First Presbyterian Church Burlingame) — Good example for good practices of all kinds, including sanitation.
Tuesday, JANUARY 12th
Letter Addressing the Capitol Insurrection & Invitation for Transformative Work
Dear Siblings and Friends of the Presbytery of San Francisco.
We write to you, having seen the abhorrent actions of Racism unfold at the seat of our government. This is a legacy of White Supremacy led by a number of leaders of our country. This is power through force that continues to yield unabated, allowing for the killing and pillaging of the rights and lives of all others. How is it possible to look at how the DC police reacted to White insurrectionists and say that these protests are like the Black Lives Matter protests done in peace? How can it be that doors were willingly opened to the Capitol building, in order to chase a Black officer of the law with intentions to do harm? Why is it that when white people form a mob and carry zip ties, Molotov cocktails and a lynching rope—its defined as a right or merely just props to make a point? Finally, how is it that it took SIX calls to get the National Guard to come only to provide quiet escort for these folks to “please leave the building”. Though these actions are proclaimed to be based on the principles Freedom— in actuality, it is an assault on the principles of democracy and of LOVE!
We sit here in quiet shock, with pain in our hearts and so much anger–this is centuries of racism that continues to yield its ugly soul and head. We will not take it anymore! We expect those who are complicit to be held accountable! We at the Presbytery of San Francisco made the commitment to address White Supremacy and Dismantling Structural Racism and we invite you to continue the journey with us in 2021. May God continue to bless us as we embark on this transformational process to become the people that God calls us to be.
With Love and Care,
~Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Wednesday, DECEMBER 23th
Letter for Christmas & the New Year to our Presbytery
Dear Siblings of the Presbytery of San Francisco,
Let’s put it out there–it’s been a weird, unpredictable 2020 with many ups, several downs and very strange sideways! The world unfolded in ways that left us with tight fists, tear-stained cheeks, spun minds and heavy hearts. But through this all, we have been drawn closer to be in God and with each other (virtually and/or the longing for relationship).
It is in this place of God that Christ is born–fully human, fully divine! It is the birth of Jesus in our midst that brings the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Joy to the world! Let earth receive her King!
With joyous song in our hearts, we want to close 2020 with the blessing of Jesus’ birth, and to walk into the New Year with intentions to carry His love forth.
Let’s build the love and trust of our Presbytery, from the least of us to all of us! With this intention we will begin 2021 fully committed to the whole of Matthew 25– the interrelated focuses of: Dismantling structural racism, Building congregational vitality & Eradicating systemic poverty.
We are inviting you to continue to engage in this work with us–so, mark your calendars:
- Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training–for the next 18-months, Crossroads will help us deeply self-reflect and discern our way forward in dismantling structural racism within our own presbytery and beyond. Our first engagement will begin on Weds, January 20th from 3-5pm, and will run every other Weds for 6 sessions. More information to come.
- A Book Study “What Lies Between US, fostering first Steps Toward Racial Healing,” by Dr Lucretia Carter Berry–led by Rev Kamal Hassan. We hope that the deep internal work and honest public conversations could inspire what is needed at this time in our process as a Matthew 25 Presbytery. The Book Study will begin on Tuesday, Feb 9th from 4-5: 30 pm, and will run every other Tuesday for 10 sessions. More information to come.
We are truly grateful to journey with you and the Presbytery of San Francisco.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful & Healthy 2021!!!