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Reflections on Psalm 145 by Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
(from Psalm 145)

This is one of my favorite psalms – it speaks to me at different times throughout the year and my life. As I’ve shared before, I have found that throughout many of life’s moments we can find the expression of our hearts and deepest thoughts on the pages written by the psalmist. Lamenting, adoring, invoking, interceding – we are certain to find the breadth of our human experience in this Old Testament book.

I write this from a monastery overlooking the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a lovely place founded by the Episcopal Church – a silent retreat center offering the combination of space, worship, spiritual direction, great food (the brothers can cook) – and for me, proximity to Harvard where I can complement my time of study with colleagues and some quality moments with my son. I discovered this sacred place about 5 years ago – not knowing at the time that the silence and location would feed a part of my soul and encourage my weary heart. The setting of this retreat center naturally encourages me to meditate on the wondrous works of God.

The timing of this brief retreat coincides with two “reflection-causing” moments in my current journey. The first is the opportunity to look back on the past two years with representatives of our presbytery’s Personnel Committee. It is so important for each of us to intentionally pause to reflect on where we are. I am humbled by our journey together as a presbytery. We have done much together in what really is a short time. This being said, even as I am grateful, I am deeply aware of all that is still to be done – from supporting our congregations in new ways; equipping leaders in the complexities of our call today, creating spaces for relationships to grow among colleagues, and much more; I am encouraged by our creative spirit and our willingness to forge partnerships with Princeton and other entities. I am also conscious of the need to balance intentionally the generative spaces and possibilities – even as we address the more complicated realities.

The second and probably more existentially relevant today is that our son, who began his journey to college as a man-child, will be graduating from Harvard as a young man in just four weeks. As we share meals together this week, I realize I am not the only one in this reflective space. He, too, is considering where he has been and where he is going. I can see it in his facial expressions and hear it in his conversations as he emotionally prepares to leave this place that has become so familiar, and frankly, has served him well. He has much to celebrate – but it is clear that, like me, he is aware of the chapter ending before him – even as a new one begins.
An unexpected twist (although I’m not sure it should be unexpected) is that as commencement draws nearer, I miss my dad. I miss him in a way I have not in more than a decade. His life was a story of great faith and courage. He believed education would be the vehicle by which we could “make something of ourselves.” He would have loved to have sat in the commencement chaos of Cambridge, proudly watching his grandson – the grandson of a man who cut sugar cane and worked in the steel mills – graduate from college, let alone Harvard. I trust that his spirit will break through the skies on May 26th – but I simply miss his presence.

I don’t consider this a particular unique journey in human life, but it is my journey at this moment. It is my unique place as a mom who is preparing to arrive at yet another milestone in parenting – the launch of her son into adulthood. As I look through the window at the Charles River – I become mindful that life is like the river that moves before me. It seems still – but if I look more carefully, I can see the moving waters. They move whether we are ready or not. I love watching the movement of the Charles River. It allows me to focus on “the glorious splendor of God’s majesty” and the “wondrous works” that compel me to meditate.

The sky is beautifully blue this morning. I appreciate the university crew teams as they paddle together in rhythm. The rhythmic strides of the runners and walkers along the riverbank are inviting me to join their movement. It’s time to walk along side those moving waters. See you in Philadelphia.

Presbytery Partners with Creative New Congregational Ministries: Covenant Fund Grant Program

By Rev. Greg Klimovitz

When churches and related ministries in the Greater Philadelphia region dream about new initiatives in their communities, the Presbytery of Philadelphia aims to be a primary partner of empowerment. This is the framework in which the Covenant Fund grant program has existed since 2008.

The Covenant Fund was inaugurated nearly ten years ago, after the sale of the former Church of the Covenant building in Bala Cynwyd. While many assumed assets would be rolled into either capital funds or the regular operating budget, leadership of the Presbytery of Philadelphia knew our call was to birth resurrection hope out of narratives of decline and closure. “With the proceeds of over $2 million from the sale, the Trustees of the Presbytery saw an opportunity to support areas beyond bricks & mortar,” said Larry Davis, Business Administrator of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. “Our call as a presbytery is to walk alongside our congregations and ministries, strengthening and equipping them to further this witness both individually and collectively as the Body of Christ.”

As a primary partner in mission and ministry, the Covenant Fund annually makes available to our churches upwards of $25,000 to each applicant who outlines a faithful, intentional, sustainable, and creative new ministry possibility within their neighborhood. Executive Presbyter, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, noted, “The Covenant Fund Grants not only serves a particular congregation and ministry but also encourages others to think in new ways about where God might be calling them at this time and place in their history.” Since 2009, the Covenant Fund has awarded 113 grants to 65 unique initiatives totaling over $1.35 million. These ministries have ranged from preschools for low-income families to ESL programs in neighborhoods of new arrivals, mentoring programs for young black males in West Philadelphia to worshipping communities alongside people experiencing homelessness, art studios for children to social enterprises. As ministry leaders, congregants, pastors, and local neighbors collaborate together to embody the Good News of Jesus Christ in ways not previously considered, these unique initiatives exemplify the central theme and theological underpin of the Covenant Fund- cast your net to the other side of the boat (John 21:3-6).

Rev. Bill Caraher, moderator of the Commission on Resources and Communications (CRC) that oversees the promotion and organization of the program, commented, “Effective ministry in our changing contexts often calls for thinking creatively and attempting a ‘new thing,’ not just for the sake of novelty but rather for a more effective incarnation the Gospel.”

Diane Fitch, who served as moderator of CRC in 2015 and has been a part of the grant application review process, added, “The Covenant Fund has allowed our churches to live out the gospel in new and exciting ways…to reach beyond their own walls, trusting that God will bless them as they seek to bless others.”

In the midst of numerous conversations about the form, function, and relevance of mid-council ministry in the twenty-first century, the Covenant Fund is a reminder that our call is to collaborate and equip the faithful of our nearly 130 churches and worshipping communities. As our Presbytery continues to steward the resources we have been given and our creative ministry leaders leverage innovative witnesses to what it truly means to be the church, we celebrate the reality that our mission is intricately woven within the fabric of our congregations. We give thanks for the faithful saints gathered and scattered throughout the Greater Philadelphia region and look forward to the possibilities ahead as together we launch yet another Covenant Fund grant program.

Project Regeneration, A Church Asset Transformation Program

Project Regeneration, A Resource from the Presbyterian Foundation

The Presbyterian Foundation is partnering with congregations and presbyteries across the denomination to explore creative options that address these questions. Among these, we offer specific expertise in helping your congregation to repurpose financially burdensome church buildings and properties into new opportunities for ministry.

The Presbyterian Foundation can walk along side you when you need to transition church assets for a new ministry, to leave a legacy of your congregation’s ministry, or to work with you to determine other creative solutions to be a good steward of the resources that your congregation has been blessed to receive.

Click here for more information.

Watch the video below on the story of how 2 churches on the outskirts of Chicago have become one and experienced new vitality, vision & financial freedom.



Reflections on Hebrews 11:8-12 by Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised,
as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob,
who were heirs with him of the same promise.
For he looked forward to the city that has foundations,
whose architect and builder is God.
By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old –
and Sarah herself was barren – because he considered him faithful who had promised.
Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead,
descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and
as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
Hebrews 11:8-12

How often do we think of ‘faith’ as it relates to those ancient and “great ancestors” of our Christian heritage? I find that I often think of those “courageous” saints upon whose faithful witness and shoulders we are able to stand. I find much encouragement in remembering their acts of faithfulness – whether it be Moses leading through the wilderness against all odds; Esther – revealing her identity in order to save a people; Ruth – leaving a familiar life to walk with her mother-in-law; Joseph, who forgives past injustice and opens his life of privilege and security to those who had wronged him; or Abraham – who leaves all behind to go to new and unknown land. How about the disciples – who leave family and friends for a mission that clearly turned in an unexpected direction? Then, there are, of course, the more contemporary heroes that have shaped our minds. Consider Martin Luther King, Jr. and his quest for righteous equality. How about Mother Theresa who in her simplicity gave human touch, hope and acceptance to those rejected by the world? In the face of these and other great witnesses, it is easy to perceive our own faith journeys as bland, irrelevant or convenient at best. Perhaps you have asked yourself on an occasion – how would I fare if faced with such monumental challenges? Would I be willing to touch those others reject? Would I risk imprisonment for my understanding of the Gospel? Would I find it in my heart to forgive those who have intentionally hurt me? Would I be willing to risk my security in order to save others? Would I be willing to lead into an unknown future? Would I be willing to leave the comforts of my life to build a new life in a new land with a new people? These questions are the themes of great movies. These questions are the themes of our lives. What role does faith play for you and me? How are we like those great people of faith before us?

I am struck by the fact that many of the great heroic figures of faith – like Abraham – are called to live nomadic-style lives. I used to have a literal understanding of ‘nomadic lifestyle,’ which allowed me to think “faith” of this importance was limited to a few chosen men and women. That was my way of rationalizing that not everyone is called to this “Abrahamic” kind of lifestyle or level of faith. As I grow older, and at times, even wiser, I’ve come to understand this ‘nomadic lifestyle’ in new ways. Nomadic, in a spiritual sense, does not necessarily require our leaving our homelands or homes. It is clear that many of us will live in the same place for many years. Nomadic should not be limited to physical transplanting from one location to another. Instead, I believe ‘nomadic’ includes the spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical challenges of moving beyond and letting go of the human symbols that offer us security and compliancy to ways of life – ways of life that include thinking and acting in manners that do not reflect the values of the one Jesus in whom we claim to believe and follow. It is this call to move beyond that will require us to call on “Abrahamic-like” faith in ways that challenge and even surprise us.

It is my belief that each of us has been called in one way or another to venture out in faith – into places and spaces unimaginable and at times, even unwelcomed by us. I believe that we are each called to step out of what keeps us complacent and comfortable into places that make us nervous and uncomfortable – deep places where we turn to God for sustenance and guidance. In fact, today I would argue that when we find ourselves feeling too complacent and smug about our views and lifestyle, it is probably time to reflect seriously on whether or not we are living out the values of our faith. And if not, it is probably time to be ‘nomadic.’ It is probably time to once again step outside those values back into the values of our faith.

This is a wonderfully rich text in that it invites me to think about those whose faith has served as a courageous example for my own life. It invites me to think about the many ways that faith has sustained me through these deeper and difficult times; of how faith in God; faith in the companionship of our Lord Jesus and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, has carried me through those wilderness moments into new possibilities.

I love the truth that God keeps calling us into new places and spaces of possibilities, allowing for new life – even when and especially when we can’t imagine what it will be. I love even more that you and I are descendants of faith. I love the imagery of the stars and the grains of sands that represent each of those who have gone before us and who will follow. We are blessed to be part of an intricate tapestry, rich with examples and stories that strengthen our own journey; journeys of those who have been invited, responded, fallen and been redeemed. As you begin this week, I invite you to reflect on how your faith has been sustained by the stories of the past. I invite you also to reflect on how you have been invited (willingly or not) into a “nomadic” season – and how faith in the God of creation has accompanied you along the journey. And as you do so – know also, that your faith serves as encouragement for mine own.

Recent Great Ends Grants Recipients


Chester Eastside, Inc.’s After-School Program Children Part of White House Visits

Trip of lifetime: Chester children and their adult guides check out the White House.

By Tim Reardon

CEI_kids in DCPictured: Second row center are Professor Mark Wallac of Swarthmore College and Kathryn Redd, Director of the After-School Program at CEI, one of the trip’s sponsors.

Thirty-five Chester children, including many from Chester Eastside, Inc.’s, After- School Program, and their adult chaperons, took a trip on April 2 that they will never forget. They got to see the inside of the place President Obama calls home.

No, they didn’t shake hands with the President, who was busy dealing with things like foreign policy and global warming. But they did get to see the elaborate security apparatus that constantly surrounds him and the rest of the First Family. Needless to say, they were impressed with what’s gotten to be a daily routine for the Obama children.

In a way this was a payback visit. During his 2008 campaign the President visited Chester. Of course the young Chesterites who were even around then would have been too young to remember.
In the words of Kathryn Redd, director of the After-School Program at Chester Eastside, Inc., one of the sponsoring organizations,”This was a wonderful history lesson for these children, one they will never forget. As the first black President of the United States, President Obama is someone they can emulate.”

Swarthmore College and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility helped to arrange the Washington trip, which was sponsored by Chester Eastside, Inc., and other faith-based organizations.

The White House was not the only stop in the nation’s capital. The young people also visited the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. They seemed particularly impressed by the giant pandas. But what will stay with them for the rest of their lives was that brush with history at the site where major decisions are made every day.

Please click here to visit Chester Eastside Inc.’s website.

Kirkwood Camp News, Spring 2016

A Grant Designed to Encourage New Ventures

The Developmental, Risky, Experimental, Adaptive Mission (D.R.E.A.M.) Grant is being offered by the Presbyterian Mission Agency in order to encourage dreamers, risk-takers, pioneers and trailblazers. We need such people who are not afraid to fail and church cultures that will encourage people to risk failure in order to find new ways to succeed. We are seeking to find persons and ways to invigorate the Church anew.

bsm-300x169September 2016 DREAM Grant Recipient: Broad Street Ministry’s new urban garden initiative received a $10,000 D.R.E.A.M. grant through the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Read more about Broad Street’s Grant here .

This grant is designed to encourage the birth of new ventures through congregations and presbyteries rather than to support the expansion of existing programs within congregations. For the purpose of this grant, new is defined as an initiative that was created no earlier than January 1, 2014. This grant will be offered as long as resources are available. This grant will not support the creation of new worshiping communities and congregations. If you need funding for the establishment of new worshiping communities and congregations, please contact Tim McCallister for more information.

The DREAM grants are the result of funds that have been given to support the following historic missions of the PC (USA), particularly among racial ethnic and rural populations:

  • Rural, remote, or urban churches that are establishing ministries that will enable them to better accomplish mission in an appropriate context;
  • Ministries that are charged with reaching, loving and teaching college age or young adults so that they may be lifelong followers of Jesus Christ;
  • Congregations that are effectively becoming more multi-ethnic in character;
  • Ministries with Racial/Ethnic and New Immigrant populations that are thriving and wish to accomplish even more;
  • Emerging leadership models for mid councils that create safe space for innovation.
    An initiative will receive a one-time D.R.E.A.M. Grant of up to $10,000. Matching funds or in-kind contributions are encouraged, but not required. These grants may be used to support the D.R.E.A.M. initiative in any way that will enable the initiative to achieve its goals. These grants are limited to ministries that are related to the Presbyterian Church (USA), and are located within the United States and Puerto Rico.

Deadline to Submit your Application is October 6, 2016

In 2015, two of our own ministries received DREAM Grant Awards: The Common Place and Welcome Church. Read more about their ministry and other DREAM Grant Recipients:

Workshops Available through the Leadership Institute at Union Presbyterian Seminary

There’s still time to register for some exciting opportunities with the Leadership Institute at Union Presbyterian Seminary!  

April and May:  Church Business Administration seminars in Charlotte.  These seminars meet the core course requirements for certification through The Church Network, but may be taken by anyone interested in administration in the church.

Seminar for the spring:  April 7: Human Resources Issues – Legal with Brian Barger; April 21: Human Resources – Personnel with Julie Bilodeau; May 5: Communications Issues with Ken Garfield; May 19: Strategic Planning with Ken McFayden.  If you are seeking certification, the two Human Resources seminars must BOTH be taken.  Cost:  $275 for all four seminars; $85 for each individual seminar.  Lunches available for $12.  Go to:

Union SeminaryContact: Marilyn Johns, D.Min., Director of Program Development – The Leadership Institute, Union Presbyterian Seminary

*Richmond Campus: 3401 Brook Road, Richmond, VA 23227  * Charlotte Campus: 5141 Sharon Road, Charlotte, NC   28210

804-278-4383 or 800-229-2990 X 383, FAX 804-278-4360,  email: Marilyn Johns


Place Your Orders for the 2016-2017 Presbytery Planning Calendars!

The Presbytery Planning Calendars are now available to order through the Presbytery office!

Order Your Planning Calendars by Friday, April 15, 2016 for the 2016-2017 Presbyterian Planning Calendar.

This calendar is an invaluable resource for the whole church that includes photographs of Presbyterians living out their faith across the country and around the world.  This 19-month calendar contains many planning aids for pastors and other church leaders.

In the calendar, you will find the lectionary for Sundays and special days, liturgical days, liturgical colors, resource information for  PC(USA) programmatic emphases, updated synod, presbytery and Presbyterian Mission Agency staff directories, color foldout synod/presbytery and world maps.  Calendar pages begin with June 2016 and end with December 2017.

The total cost for each calendar is $9.50, which includes the cost of shipping to the Presbytery.
Calendars will be made available at the Presbytery office for pick-up.

Please include your check (Payable to the Presbytery) for the appropriate amount.

Please contact Amy Ayres  if you have any questions or to place your order.