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1013 8th Avenue
Seattle, WA, 98104
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(206)762-1991

The mission of Seattle Presbytery is to participate, in word and deed, in God’s transforming work through the Gospel of Jesus Christ: †by strengthening the witness and mission of our congregations and members and by building strong partnerships with each other and the larger Christian community.

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SeaPres Update: Sticky Situations

Seattle Presbytery

The mutual interconnection of the church through its councils is a sign of the unity of the church. Congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), while possessing all the gifts necessary to be the church, are nonetheless not sufficient in themselves to be the church. Rather, they are called to share with others both within and beyond the congregation the task of bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the world. This call to bear witness is the work of all believers. The particular responsibility of the councils of the church is to nurture, guide, and govern those who witness as part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to the end that such witness strengthens the whole church and gives glory to God.

(Book of Order G-3.0101)

Sticky situations or conflicts in a congregational setting are not unusual. It’s actually part of being community and gathering a diverse group of people. But there are occasions when a challenging situation arises that requires more than a session or pastor can provide.

In recent days several churches experiencing circumstances that benefit from outside guidance and more objective analysis than the congregation’s leadership can provide have contacted our office.

It might be an allegation of inappropriate conduct or significant personnel issues. The important thing to remember is that we are a connectional system and our polity provides for a higher council (such as the presbytery) to work with a lower council (the church’s session) to resolve conflict.

The first step is contacting either one of your execs (Scott Lumsden or myselfor our stated clerk (Dean Strong). Besides providing another pair of eyes and ears to evaluate the situation, should matters need an investigative process or formal review, you will have already laid the groundwork to move forward.

“Looping in the presbytery” isn’t an escalation or making things bigger than they should be; it’s just another way to make sure we’re all on the same page in a situation or serious conflict and stand together as we discern the best way forward.

Our work together is both celebrating the wonderful things God is doing in our congregations and the Christian witness of our churches as well as being present and accountable when challenges arise. In this season of Advent when we anticipate the fullness of God’s incarnation among us, may we remember that we have one another to lean on and lean into.

In grace and hope,

Rev. Eliana Maxim

Associate Executive Presbyter

SeaPres Update: Advent Blessings

Seattle Presbytery

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:26-30 MSG)

As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (Luke 5:16 MSG)

We’re delighted to host David Olsen from Samaritan Counseling Center of the Capitol Region to facilitate Boundary Training this Thursday and Friday at the presbytery office. This is the second year we’ve invited David to lead this professional development course and I just can’t say enough how insightful and helpful it was for me. I hope you can join us.

Which has got me thinking about self-care in general, but particularly as we enter into the Advent season. At a time when many in our congregations are decorating their homes, shopping for gifts, baking goodies, and enjoying Christmas-related activities, many of our pastors and church leaders are overwhelmed with worship planning, community needs, pastoral emergencies, and facility support. Layer on all this personal and family commitments, you can see how exhausting and overextended you can become.

This is probably the best time to consider how you are caring for yourself. Are you making time for your own quiet prayer or meditative practices? Are you sleeping enough? Eating balanced meals? Do you have time for activities – large and small – that are life giving? Are you having any fun?

When was the last time you went on a retreat? Or just carved out a few hours of “me” time?

We know that we can be more fully present to our congregations when we can be more fully ourselves, authentic, and healthy.

In this first Sunday of Advent, I invite you to give yourself a gift. The gift of caring for yourself. Not only will you feel better; it’s a worthy investment.

In grace and hope, 

Rev. Eliana Maxim

Associate Executive Presbyter

SeaPres Update: Thanksgiving Blessings

Seattle Presbytery

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3-6)

Someone recently told me that the opposite of despair is thanksgiving. I could have sworn the right answer was faith, but my friend shook her head slowly and smiled. “Think about it.”

And I have.

In the midst of a cultural landscape littered with incessant gun violence, acts of racism, homeless encampments, devastating wildfires, and fear mongering from politicians of every stripe, we are weary.

In the midst of personal loss, health concerns, job insecurities, and relationship strains, we grieve.

Despair is not far away.

And this can be true as well for our places of worship and congregations. A furnace that is on its last legs, a church member who loves to antagonize, a balance sheet that never seems to see black ink, a pastor who has lost their energy, imagination, and perhaps even love.

We can grow weary in the very places where God has called us to be community.

But what if we were to give thanks? Thanksgiving for each one of us who make up Seattle Presbytery, for all those who touch the lives and ministry of our congregations, for all those strangers we have yet to meet? Thanksgiving for the opportunity do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God?

In this season of Thanksgiving, I invite us to give thanks. That, like the writer of Philippians, we pray for one another, confident that the good work begun among us is being brought to completion. And rather than despair, we roll up our sleeves to be the church.

In grace and hope, 

Rev. Eliana Maxim

Associate Executive Presbyter

Hundreds of miles north of the Mexico border? You, too, can help

Seattle Presbytery

Webinar participants toss out ideas for aiding asylum seekers, deportees

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Leslie Vogel, a Guatemala-based mission co-worker, was one of presenters during a Thursday webinar put on by the Presbyterian Mission Board’s Outreach to the World Committee.

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterians living hundreds of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border can help asylum seekers and those facing deportation from the United States in a number of ways, including advocacy, accompaniment and aide.

Experts had no shortage of helpful ideas Thursday during a 75-minute webinar organized by the Outreach to the World Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Board.

Read more.

Seattle Presbytery Executive Board Response to "Vacant Property Resolution"

Seattle Presbytery

To: Commissioners at the October 16, 2018 Seattle Presbytery Meeting

From: Executive Board, Seattle Presbytery

Re: Vacant Property Resolution

___________________________________________________

The Executive Board agrees that a vacant property policy that further guides the Presbytery in its use of property, establishment of new ministries, and the use of funds, would strengthen existing Presbytery guidelines regarding property and finance, which have already served us well.

The Executive Board will bring a vacant property policy for the Presbytery's approval at the January 2019 Presbytery meeting.

The Executive Board concurs with the FPCS AC/Session in opposing any conditions that would obstruct the AC/Session’s decision to sell the property and urges disapproval of the resolution.

Executive Board

Lina Thompson (TE, Lake Burien PC)

Lindsay Murphy (TE, Mercer Island PC)

Todd Petersen (RE, Woodland Park PC)

Dani Forbess (TE, Northminster PC)

Becki Barrett (TE, Overlake Park PC)

Loretta Pain (RE, University PC)

Jesse Mabanglo (TE, Lake City PC)

J. P. Kang (TE, Japanese PC)

Heidi Husted Armstrong (TE, Seattle First PC)

More information:

10/16: Seattle First AC/Session & SeaPres Executive Board Listening Session

Stated Clerk Report: October Presbytery Meeting

FPCS AC/Session Response Regarding Vacant Property Resolution

https://www.seattlepresbytery.org/fpcs-ac/

SeaPres Update: Fall Changes

Seattle Presbytery

By Rev. Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter

As we settle into the fall, I have some exciting staff updates to share. Many in our presbytery already know Tali Hairston, but it may be news that Tali is now our Director of Community Engagement and Reconciliation. Tali is a nationally recognized leader in racial reconciliation work from his 17 years as Seattle Pacific University's former Director of the John M. Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development. In addition, Tali brings a deep commitment to the civic and faith communities in this city, region, and state. We are very excited to have Tali lend his leadership to our congregations as we all seek to engage the communities we serve in more just and faithful ways.

Helen Hall, who has been working on a contract basis for many months, is now employed full time as our Business and Finance Manager. Helen oversees the day to day management of all our presbytery properties and financial operations. Helen also gives support to finance, HR, and property related issues of our churches. 

Both of these changes are very important as they are part of our goal of better supporting the mission and ministry of our churches. 

These changes didn't just happen however, they were planned. Ten years worth of work to change the financial picture in Seattle Presbytery was not done just for the benefit of the balance sheet -- it was done to put us in a position to grow. 

Many years of hard work to keep our staffing structure flexible, nimble, and efficient was not done just to keep costs low, but to build the core functions upon which we would expand our service to congregations.

Tali's position is partly funded out of Grant funds, and Helen's position is mostly funded out of a portion of the income from property management. Of course, neither of these additions will affect the level of Grant funding available to our churches. And as usual, none of the cost of these additional investments in our ministry will be borne by our congregations. 

It feels very good be able to see these plans come to fruition.

To this end, I am also very excited that conversations have begun around the larger vision and mission of Seattle Presbytery. The listening sessions that grew out of the Seattle First decision in July have been helpful to the leadership of the presbytery. In particular, the Property & Finance committee has heard the concerns expressed about affordable housing, new ministry development, and property partnerships that better align with our collective mission, are already being explored relating to future use of property. The Vacant Property policy that is referenced in the motion to amend is thus not needed as this work is already underway, and the development of such a guiding policy will be brought by the Executive Board in January for the presbytery's approval.  

Last, I want to remember Esther Laing, Eliana's sister, who passed away recently. Esther was a dear friend to the entire staff and was known to commissioners for her loving, friendly, and gracious support during our presbytery dinners -- something she did with her wonderful husband Bobby. We miss her terribly and ask that you continue to pray for the Laing/Maxim family. 

Please review the reports as you prepare for the meeting on Tuesday. And have a blessed weekend. 

Rev. Scott Lumsden
Executive Presbyter

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance response updates

Seattle Presbytery

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has set up sites for volunteers to stay at Kinston, Fayetteville, and Wilmington.  These volunteers help survivors in the early stages of a disaster response.  At a later date, PDA will set up sites for longer term recovery assistance. 

If you want more information about these sites, you can contact Eden Roberts, below.

Eden Roberts
Mission Specialist II for Hosting and Volunteer Management
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
National Call Center
866.732.6121 (toll-free)

http://pda.pcusa.org/situation/hurricane-florence/

A Theological Reflection on Property and Ministry

Seattle Presbytery

A Theological Reflection on Property and Ministry

Rev. J. P. Kang

The claim has been made that “a clear theme of scripture is that God gives us land to steward for ministry.” However, this is not obvious and is in fact questionable. The Scriptures do not articulate a universal and consistent teaching about land (or ground or earth) and our relationship to it, and so interpretation and discernment are always required when thinking about and making decisions about land.

The two creation accounts found at the beginning of Genesis characterize the relationship between human beings and land in significantly different ways. In the first account, humanity is commanded “to fill the earth and subdue (lit. ‘dominate’) it” (1:28)—as masters and owners. In the second account, Adam is placed in Eden to cultivate (lit. “serve”) and care for (lit. “guard”) it (2:15)—as servant and tenant. Differing visions of humanity’s place in creation are juxtaposed in these opening chapters, and the tension remains evident throughout the Bible.

In Genesis 11, the primary problems with the tower-builders of Babel are that (1) they chose to settle down, in open disobedience to the thrice-repeated command (Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7) to fill the earth, and (2) they had no interaction with the LORD in their planning and building—until it was too late. For their defiance and self-reliance they were evicted, becoming a cautionary tale for projects undertaken without consulting the divine building inspector. Note that the story is not criticizing the otherwise natural human desires for stability or ambition, but it is an early reminder that wisdom is vindicated by listening and obeying (Matthew 7:24–27). In these examples, land is literally and figuratively a stage on which human motivations are exposed.

It is true that land, along with lineage, are the LORD’s oft-repeated promises to Abram (chapters 12–50). Abram’s descendants, however, realize the “promised land” through genocidal conquest (Joshua), which complicates, if not compromises, the value of the gift. The subsequent history of the land (Judges through 2 Kings) that ended in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles shows that, far from being cultivated for holy use, the land was defiled by the idolatry of the Israelites and Judeans. God purges polluted land by removing its inhabitants, one time by flood (Genesis 6–7) and later, by a figurative vomiting out in the exile (Leviticus 18:25–28). Bottom line: the exile teaches us that land is not an ultimate good, and that God’s purposes are not frustrated even when God’s people are landless.

Thus we see a variety of attitudes toward land in the Old Testament, and we need to be on guard against readings that conclude that the value of land justifies any means of attaining or retaining it. Such readings of the Old Testament, transposing “promised land” onto contemporary maps, have been used to legitimate the imperialism of ideologies such as Manifest Destiny and Zionism.

The New Testament likewise expresses a variety of views about land.

In the parable of the sower (Mark 4; Matthew 13; Luke 8), the responses to the word that is sown are represented by different types of terrain: smooth, rocky, thorny, and good soil. Perhaps the most disquieting thing about this parable is that God is free to sow wherever God chooses, and that the terrain has no power to “improve” itself. This story is paired in all three accounts with the confounding word of Isaiah 6:9 (“Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand”) that divinely ordains deafness and blindness even for those who hear the good news. Humility and reverent fear should attend our reflections on the terrain represented by our lives.

If we seek models for how land is to be used for ministry, we might first consider the negative example found in the parable of the man who planted a fig tree, which repeatedly failed to produce fruit: “So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’” (13:7; compare Isaiah 5:1–7’s song of the vineyard). What do these parables suggest about a possible faithful response to a non-productive ministry?

Then there is the example of Acts 4:32–37, where the early church’s communal ethos extended even to real property for the sake of eliminating poverty: “for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (v. 34). Even if we don’t believe we are supposed to imitate them in this particular way, we can certainly learn from the spirit of the way they disposed of their assets as we consider the question of the proper disposition of property.

Land thus has potential to be a tool for ministry, but like any tool, its positive or negative value results from the way in which it is wielded. And as with tools, using the right tool at the right time can make all the difference in finishing a job well; conversely, using the wrong tool or using a tool in the wrong way usually leads to wasted effort and even damage. Land can be, like a sacrament, an ordinary substance that becomes a vehicle for God’s grace, but in and of itself land has no special properties or powers. What it is or will be depends on God first, and secondarily, our response to God’s word to us, here, in this place.

Return to: FPCS AC/Session FAQs 10-8-18

Presbytery Property & Finance: Where We've Been And Where We Are Going

Seattle Presbytery

By Rev. Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter

Over the past few months, there have been a number questions about how the presbytery manages its properties and finances. I want to give some background so that the presbytery better understands where we've been and where we're going.

Background

I began in April of 2008, and among other challenges in the presbytery at the time, I was made aware that the presbytery owned about 3 properties that were not being actively managed by the presbytery: Buck Creek (Camp & Conference Center), Beacon Hill (containing presbytery offices, one church, and one fellowship), and Brighton (Vietnamese Good News Fellowship, and a few other churches not related to the presbytery). It was also reported that the pastor of Black Diamond PC left the area and abandoned the building.

In none of these 4 properties were there valid leases or agreements with any entity in any of these buildings (and keep in mind that fellowships have no official legal or ecclesiastic standing in relationship to the presbytery). In addition, the presbytery paid for most of the costs of these properties—had all the liability—and received almost no income from any of the tenants.

The presbytery incurred about $100,000 a year in operation/upkeep costs related to these properties from 1996-2008, a total loss of about $1.2M on property management.

Relating to day-to-day financial management, the situation was worse. On the day before I started, our bookkeeper resigned—the third bookkeeper to resign in the previous year. Her reason was something along the lines of "I cannot be responsible for what happened here." And the committee whose job it was to oversee our finances had resigned as a committee in 2007 after it was stated publicly (by then-moderator Madeleine Brenner) in a presbytery meeting that our finances were not reliable. Sadly, this was true, but now on top of not having a committee, we did not have a bookkeeper either.

Enter the guy (me) who previously had never balanced his checkbook and you have what could have been an unmitigated disaster.

What Happened

What happened was exactly the opposite—we rallied as a presbytery, formed a Property and Finance committee, reviewed our books, got our financial house in order, and began the slow, difficult process of learning how to manage vacant church buildings.

Let me share just a little about the financial picture in 2008. In 2008, we had a $40 per capita, a $500,000 personnel budget (that supported a staff focused primarily on administrative work, not on field work with congregations), supposedly about $1M in the bank (which turned out only to be about $400,000), and two sources of income: per capita (operations) AND mission giving (additional freewill giving from our churches for mission causes).

Despite giving the impression that mission giving from our congregations went to presbytery mission efforts, all the income received from our churches was subsumed into Operations. I know that this is not how people wanted it, or thought we were doing it, but it's how things were. And since mission giving was beginning to dry up, the only way to resolve the operations shortfall was to increase per capita (and do less "mission"). In the meantime, the financial realities for our congregations was getting worse in the light of decades of decline and now a bona fide global recession.

To address the presbytery shortfall, there was a plan to raise per capita in 2009.  However, with the backing of the newly formed Property and Finance committee, we continued to tighten our belts and steward our resources toward healthier practices—meaning we chose not to raise per capita in 2009 and have been able to keep it at $40 for the past 10 years.

This also meant that we had to deal with the "mission giving" problem. We did this by utilizing our properties as mission assets and using the additional revenue from property management for mission through what is now called the grant program. Thus not only have we kept costs contained for our per capita (operations) budget, we've also addressed the mission funding question by changing the way we managed our properties.

In short, our churches have been able to receive the same, if not better services from the presbytery (without any increase in per capita for 10 years) AND financial help for capital improvements, mission projects, or even operational expenses without having to raise this money from other churches.

This means that now when we talk about doing something new or different for our churches or as a presbytery, we don't have to raise the money from our churches (which is what we used to do, e.g. the capital campaign to "save" Buck Creek, or the old fundraising efforts for new church development). Now we allocate money from our grant program.

A New Approach

It's important to know that a critical reason we have gone from financial crisis to financial health is because we not only dealt head-on with our financial challenges, we also addressed the cause of much of our chronic financial distress: property.

Instead of seeing vacant church properties as just old church buildings that could only be used for congregational purposes, we began to look at them as buildings that could be employed for the ministry of the larger presbytery. In other words, since we had no congregations of our own in the buildings (except one at Beacon Hill, who then found another location at Wallingford), we were open to pursuing leases with other entities.

This change, however, took years to manage and many thousands of hours of working with the fellowships that were in our buildings—working with them to find other churches they could nest in or even other locations with money pledged to help the transition, including support with rent. We even offered one of our fellowships a share in the proceeds from a lease. (These offers were all flatly turned down).

In the meantime, a number of churches have closed: Duwamish, New Hope, First Renton, White River, and Bethel. Each new property had its own history and story, as well as its own challenges and opportunities.

It was during this period that the P&F committee was most busy. One by one, each property was appraised and evaluated in light of the larger mission of the presbytery: White River was sold to Pyung An (a predominantly Korean-speaking congregation nested at Steel Lake and who later was dismissed to ECO), Duwamish was sold to the congregation that shared space with the Presbyterian church when it was there; New Hope (in South Park) was sold to a Slavic speaking Russian Orthodox Congregation; First Renton was sold to the Children's Institute for Learning Differences; Bethel was leased and then sold to Seattle Area German Academy; Black Diamond is in a lease with an option to purchase to Grace Road Church; and Beacon Hill is being leased to the Torah Day School (which expires in 5 years).

And recently Kent and Capitol Hill have closed, and Seattle Presbytery is managing Seattle First on the AC's behalf. (More on these properties another time).

Why Are We Managing Property?

From time to time people ask, why is "the presbytery" or "Scott" managing property? Shouldn't we/he be doing something else? Great question. We are managing property because just as buildings and property are a part of the ministry of a local congregation, they become just as much a part of the ministry of the presbytery when a church closes.

And for the same reasons an active church doesn't hire out the management of its facilities to an outside entity, neither do we -- it's cost-prohibitive; the decisions about the use of the facilities should be made by the church/presbytery without having to go through an outside party; and in the end, property is for the mission of a church/presbytery and thus even if it is leased, the decisions about leases have to make sense for the church/presbytery and thus not be handed over to other entities to make for us.

There's more to this story, of course, and more decisions to be made ahead relating to Kent, and Capitol Hill, but I wanted to share some background information as you consider the presbytery’s stewardship of our collective resources for mission.  

—Rev. Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter

Read also: FPCS AC/Session FAQs 10-8-18

Ecclesio: Memories of an Immigrant Child by Eliana Maxim

Seattle Presbytery

By Eliana Maxim, on Ecclesio.com

2017 Eliana Maxim headshot.jpg

Shortly after arriving in this country, someone – probably my parents – gave me my first doll. She was Chatty Cathy, a large size hard plastic doll with a pull string in the back of her neck, blond wavy hair, unreal blue eyes and a fixed smile.

My greatest joy was that Cathy spoke to me personally. In my language.

When I pulled her string, I became convinced that among her many utterances, she stated in a clear loud voice, “Que rico Colombia!” (loosely translated to “How wonderful is Colombia!) I look back now and realize the complete nonsense of my belief. There was no way Mattel was going to personalize Chatty Cathys for homesick immigrant girls.

I know I ran around pulling that string like crazy, demonstrating to anyone who would listen the brilliance of my doll; she was able to know where I came from and how wonderful it had been there.

My parents humored me and nodded with what I assumed was our shared melancholy for home but now that I think about it, it was probably sadness for a little girl who could not let go.

There were well meaning folks, our new American neighbors, whose greatest desire was to educate me and were quick to point out that Chatty Cathy was American and therefore only spoke English, that she could only repeat 11 English phrases, that I needed to listen carefully and this would help me learn English.

And so I did.

Eventually.

Read more on Ecclesio.com.

Pacific Northwest Culture and Religious Identity

Seattle Presbytery

An invitation from Rev. Kelly Wadsworth:

Pacific Northwest Culture and Religious Identity: Seattle University

This online, professional development course runs Oct 1 – Nov 13, 2018 and will equip local faith leaders to 1) navigate the particular culture, history, and geography of the Pacific Northwest and 2) articulate one’s own ecclesial tradition within the context of this unique region and ethos. Cost: $210. Space limited, sign up soon. Contact Kelly Wadsworth @ wadswork@seattleu.edu for more information. Registration: https://www.seattleu.edu/stm/professional-development/

RAW Tools Service Reflection

Seattle Presbytery

A message from Rev. Lina Thompson, Lake Burien PC:
Like many communities in this region and across the country, we struggle to make real our desire for peace in the midst of senseless violence.  On August 26th, nearly 250 people from our community, gathered to consider God’s word to us as peacemakers.   We had the privilege of partnering with RAW TOOLS 
www.rawtools.org to create liturgy that spoke to the transformation of violence into peace - all who were there were witness to a beautiful and powerful image that you can read about below in Rev. Aaron Willett’s reflection. 

Peacemaking Starts with the Heart

-Rev. Aaron Willett

The gun barrel entered the forge and the hammer pounded--bang, bang, bang--we prayed, we sang--bang, bang, bang--people whose sisters and brothers have died at the end of a gun shared their stories--bang, bang, bang--the Word was preached--bang, bang, bang--and then the forge was still and a pair of garden tools were given to those survivors as a sign of God’s redemption. We witnessed the hope-filled words of Isaiah 2:4 enacted before our eyes: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”

I was particularly struck by the story of one young man who shared his story of having an older adopted brother killed by gang violence--killed by a gun. He told of the day, some years later, when another of his brothers shared a secret with him: a gun, hidden away. Together he and his brothers would just hold the gun, in awe of the power it represented. They bragged to each other of the people they would shoot if they were disrespected, threatened, or endangered. The gun represented safety, security, and strength. But then, on a fateful day in 2006, the gun went off and one brother was dead.

Here at Southminster, we had two students at Evergreen High School who were on the wrestling team with those brothers. They mourned with that family. That gun, acquired to be a sign of safety and power, brought darkness and powerlessness.

At Lake Burien Pres., on August 26th, members of John Knox PC, Highline UMC, and several other local congregations gathered under a gray sky that eventually broke into a chilling drizzle. In the discomfort of the cold, we heard the discomforting tones--bang, bang bang--as we faced the discomfort and darkness of violence in our community. Together we prayed:

“Lord, we know that if there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.”

We shared communion and we celebrated our God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, who makes peace in our hearts… that there might be peace in the world.


A Practice of Peacemaking

Each part of Isaiah 2:4 helps teach us the practice of peacemaking.

“[God] shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;”

God establishes our peace. In Jesus Christ, the peaceable kingdom has begun. The first step in any practice of peacemaking is to relinquish the responsibility and pressure for that first step! In our own peacemaking, we are participating in God’s own action and desire to establish peace in the world and in our hearts.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;”

The first action belongs to God… but we own our responses. We do carry the responsibility to choose to act in God’s way of peace, whether it be smithing weapons into garden tools or choosing compassion instead of judgment when someone cuts us off in traffic.

“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”

Finally, God’s peace impacts both the political world of the nations, as well as the much smaller world of our homes. “Neither shall they learn war any more.” Choosing to teach peace requires that we practice peace.

Next time you are faced with the choice between violence and peace, give yourself a moment to consider Isaiah’s call to you. Move past your own fight or flight instincts to consider how you can refashion the violence in your own heart into a tool of God’s peaceable kingdom.

August 30 SeaPres Update: NEXT Church 2019 in Seattle

Seattle Presbytery

2019-save-slider NEXT Seattle.png

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.” ( Acts 2)

As a PresbyGeek or denominational nerd, I attend my fair share of national church gatherings. I’m always on the prowl to hear good news, insights, and innovative ways of rethinking church. Five years ago I attended what was then labeled as a “brand new gathering of Presbyterians” in Charlotte. They called themselves NEXT Church.

This gathering was unlike anything I had attended before. Rather than bemoaning the state of the church or how things aren’t as they used to be, I found leaders - ordained and not - engaged in thoughtful conversations about thinking of the church in a different way, of taking a chance to risk, of celebrating who we are and can be. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this event was that is was - by PCUSA standards anyway - far more culturally and ethnically diverse than other denominational gatherings. Yay! More people who looked and sounded like me, doing ministry, being PCUSA together!

Since then, I have attended the NEXT Church national gatherings in Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Baltimore. And in 2019 NEXT Church will be in Seattle. Yes, finally on the west coast!

Preparations have begun for Seattle Presbytery and Seattle First Presbyterian Church to host the event which usually gets about 400-600 attendees. We’ll need your help in order to roll out the hospitality. Please sign up if you’re interested in volunteering.

Mark your calendars for March 11-13. More details here.

The NEXT Church gathering  will be a place where we can revel in teaching and fellowship, break bread and pray together.

In grace and hope,

Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter

August 23 SeaPres Update

Seattle Presbytery

By Ben McConaughy

Ben McConaughy is a ruling elder from Mercer Island Presbyterian Church and currently serves on Seattle Presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission and the Seattle First Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission. He shared this devotion at a recent AC meeting and gave us permission to share it with the presbytery. 


35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” (John, Chapter 1)

Twenty years ago, I found myself in Amalfi, Italy, with an afternoon on my hands. I randomly decided to stop in at the cathedral. There were signs all over the place pointing to the Crypta de Santo Andrea. Curious, I followed the signs, through the sanctuary, down hallways, around corners, until I got to . . .  the gift shop. I thought that was a bit strange, until I noticed one last sign pointing down some stairs. I asked one of the cashiers who Santo Andrea was, and she said, “That’s St. Andrew. Thke Andrew -- The first disciple of Jesus.” The Amalfians claim that during the crusades, they captured Andrew’s mremains from Constantinople, brought them back, and then built a cathedral to house them. I didn’t really believe this, but I went down into the crypt. It was dark and kind of creepy, and surprisingly, I was alone. As I approached this golden box of bones on an altar, I was overwhelmed by this powerful sense that I could be in the presence of the remains of someone who had actually been with Jesus. I wanted to touch the box, but wasn’t sure if it was allowed. But there was no one else there, and my hand was almost magnetically drawn to the box. I touched it, and felt this incredible surge of energy flowing through me. I felt like I had come into contact with a force more powerful than I could explain. When I told my pastor at the time this story, he said, “Maybe this wasn’t some deep spiritual phenomenon – maybe they just electrified the box to keep people from touching it.”

I bet Andrew’s encounter with Jesus was a bit like mine with Andrew – coming into contact with a force more powerful than one can explain.  One of the reasons I love this passage from John is its quirky dialogue. The disciples go walking after Jesus and he turns to them with a question – “what do you want?” In fact, these are the first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John –“what do you want?” Given the context, it’s not a question about why the disciples are trailing after Jesus.  It’s a question about the deepest desires of being human. It’s a question about why it was necessary for Jesus to step into our world. And it’s a question for the church to ask itself. What do we want?

Andrew, perhaps taken aback by Jesus’ question, responds with his own question – “where are you staying?” He’s not asking who’s putting Jesus up for the night. The Greek here is closer to “where do you abide?” Where does Jesus abide? If we want to know more about Jesus, where can we expect to find Him? In my view, it is outside the walls of the church – in the streets, amidst the poor and the oppressed; the hungry and the lost. At homeless shelters, AA meetings, memory care units. At Charlottesville. This scripture invites us to ask where is Jesus calling us to.

Jesus responds to Andrew’s question with an invitation: “come and see.” This story tells us that the way to find the essence of Jesus isn’t through spiritual practices or theologizing. It is by following Him out into the world and enacting the love of God. Father Richard Rohr puts it this way: “we do not think ourselves into new ways of living – we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

Our work as an administrative commission, our call as followers of Jesus, is to go to the places where Jesus abides. To do, to see, to act. To change the lives of others, and to be changed in our own right.

I leave you with three questions:

What do we as a church want?

Given what we know about Jesus and His character, where can we expect to find Him?

How will we respond to the call to follow Christ into the places where He abides?

August 16 SeaPres Update

Seattle Presbytery

Dear friends,

I recently got together with a priest friend who serves in a local Catholic parish. We shared a little about current ministry challenges when he suddenly looked at me and said, “Wait. If you guys don’t have a bishop, who’s in charge?”

Not an uncommon question to ask, especially if you’ve been accustomed to a church system where the buck stops with a particular person, the official decision maker.

I responded to my friend as I have to many others who’ve asked me the same question. “The presbytery is in charge.”

You see where this is going, I’m sure.

You are the presbytery. We are the presbytery. Women and men, young and old, ruling elders and teaching elders (ministers of word and sacrament) coming together to serve together on committees, commissions, and task forces. And then quarterly gathering as a larger body at presbytery meetings to discuss and make decisions. As presbytery. The ones in charge.

This doesn’t happen organically or by happenstance. It requires pastors (teaching elders) to take time away from their already busy ministries to serve at the presbytery level. It also requires ruling elders from all our churches to prayerfully consider how they can serve the presbytery as well. I say requires, because serving “the higher council” (not just your church’s session but the presbytery committees, commissions, and task forces) is part of the ordination vows we all make.

“Will you share in government and discipline, serving in councils of the church, and in your ministry will you try to the show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?”

Our polity also directs ruling elders in this fashion.

G-3.0202 in the Book of Order states: “Sessions have a particular responsibility to participate in the life of the whole church through participation in other councils….(b) serve on committees or commissions, bearing in mind principles of inclusiveness and fair representation in the decision making of the church.”

If you are a congregational pastor reading this, we ask you to consider elders in your community who might be called to serve the presbytery.

If you are a ruling elder reading this, we need you.

How might you more fully live into your ordination promises to serve the councils of the church? Where within our presbytery leadership might you find your gifts needed?

I welcome and celebrate the opportunity to BE the presbytery with you all!

In grace and hope,

Rev. Eliana Maxim
Associate Executive Presbyter

p.s. Want to know about opportunities to serve at the Presbytery level?

Contact our Nominating Committee or any staff member.

August 10 SeaPres Update: A Hike and A Question

Seattle Presbytery

A Hike and A Question

Scott hiking orig.JPG

I remember as we were driving to the trailhead that there was still one question I had not yet asked about our trip. That question though was like the hazy, haunting smoke from the Diamond Creek and BC forest fires we were driving into -- it was all around me yet too ethereal and distant in my mind to think much about.  

It was day four when the question became clear. I was navigating Cutthroat Pass alone (we tended to get spread out on the trail) when it hit me. As I approached the first cutback on my descent, I peered out over the ledge to see the startling 1,000 foot drop into the valley below, and all of a sudden it popped into my mind like the terror that was beginning to envelope my body: "how high are these peaks we’re going to be hiking?" And a related question (actually many) also came: "Will there be any sheer cliffs on this hike?" 

I've always been a big fan of questions, and even more so now. Questions allow us to explore, learn, grow, and often times to assess things before we experience them for ourselves. They open us up to possibilities and understandings that help us navigate what's ahead. I'm convinced we make better, more faithful decisions when we lead with questions. 

What questions are you asking in your life now? What are you curious about? What are your questions? 

I wish I had asked that one question before heading out on the PCT last summer, but even that was a learning experience. It didn't end terribly well (I'll share that story another time), but I lived to tell the tale, so that's got to count for something. 

"[Jesus] said to them, 'What are you talking about as you walk along?'"  Luke 24:17 (CEB)

Rev. Scott Lumsden
Executive Presbyter

2019 Youth Triennium

Seattle Presbytery

PYT2019_Logo_Final_WhiteBkgd.jpg

Presbyterian Youth Triennium

July 16-20, 2019
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana

Five days of CONVERSATION, RECREATION, LEARNING, WORSHIP AND FUN! Drawing from the rich and diverse theology, history and education of the Presbyterian tradition – the Triennium experience is packed with the information students long to explore!

Digging into faith through a variety of activities and experiences – all focused around the theme “Here’s My Heart” (Recognize the line yet? Hint: It’s a lyric from a classic tune / hymn we sing!) participants at the Triennium will re-enter their lives with a fresh sense of inspiration grounded in the context of personal and communal worship!

Seattle Presbytery will lead a delegation to attend this event. Rev. Scott Anderson (St. Andrew PC) is our 2019 registrar. Contact Seattle Presbytery or go to SeaPres Triennium page.

Presbyterian Youth Triennium is a gathering for high school age youth (entering 9th grade through graduated 12th grade) from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church that occurs every three years. All participants must be registered through a local presbytery or church delegation.

Presbyterian Youth Triennium website

Presbyterian Youth Triennium on Facebook

‘Here’s my Heart’ named 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium theme

Resources to help separated immigrant families

Seattle Presbytery

On June 16, 2018, the PC(USA) Stated Clerk issued this statement on separated immigrant families:

Nelson: ‘We must not punish desperate parents by tearing their children away from them’

Office of the General Assembly Communications - June 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II —Randy Hobson

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, issued a statement  from the denomination’s 223rd General Assembly condemning the Trump administration’s new policy of separating young children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What has this nation become?” Nelson queried. “How have we wandered so far from Jesus’ kind admonition, “‘Let the little children come to me…’” He also criticized the Justice Department’s stated use of separate detention of parents and their children as a “deterrant” to immigration and accused the administration of selective use of scripture, saying the citing of Romans 13:1 to obey the law (presumably whatever the law says), while ignoring the higher scriptural demand that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10) is a blatant misuse of the biblical message.

The full text of Nelson’s statement, dated June 16, 2018: 

As Presbyterians gather for the meeting of our 223rd General Assembly, we are mindful of the many issues of justice, peace and compassion we face, both as citizens of the United States and members of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

While we face issues of peace on the Korean peninsula, tragic injustice in the Middle East, and the spectre of climate change in our nation and our world, there is nothing of more urgency than the tragedy that is unfolding at our borders, where children are ripped from their parents and placed in holding cells, while their frantic parents scream in agony at the separation.

What has this nation become? How have we wandered so far from Jesus’ kind admonition, “Let the little children come to me … for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs”? How can this be happening in a nation in which so many claim the traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the critical importance of families to the fabric of our lives together?

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this policy is the willingness of the highest legal official of our nation to suggest that if a mother has fled violence in her own country to save herself and her children but has not had a chance to make a proper petition for safety in the U.S., she should be taught a lesson by having her children taken from her. It is almost incomprehensible that these acts should be used as a warning to others who would come.

What makes matters worse is the audacity of quoting the Apostle Paul’s admonition to believers in Romans 13:1 to obey the law (presumably whatever the law says), while ignoring the higher scriptural demand that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

The crisis of tens of thousands of desperate people coming to the United States for relief seems almost overwhelming. But as the officials of our government attempt to address the crisis, we cannot afford to tarnish the highest values of our nation. We must not punish desperate parents by tearing their children away from them, leaving the parents without access to the children or assurance of their welfare. 

In the name of God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stop!

In the faith we share,

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)