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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Top Ten Pittsburgh Presbytery Stories for 2012
January 3, 2013

The beginning of a new year offers us a special invitation to reflect on where we have been over the past year, setting in place some “Ebenezer stones” (see 1 Samuel 7:12) to make sure we don’t forget the places where we have especially felt the presence of God’s grace. In so doing, we not only honor such places well – we also may gain a clearer sense of where God is leading us in the year to come. So here are my picks for our “top ten” for 2012.

Pittsburgh Presbytery hosts the General Assembly of the PCUSA – Hands down, our biggest story in years. What a privilege it was to extend the heart and hands of our Lord to the thousands who came to “our house” this summer! I encourage you to go back to review our COLA website, and be sure to watch the wonderful Pittsburgh welcome videos posted on the home page.

New Mission Plan Adopted A comprehensive reconsideration of our mission was made necessary by the need to cut our spending significantly in order to balance our budget. A mission study team was gathered to engage the question, “What is the sustainable mission to which God is calling us?” Over the course of a year, they prayed and studied their way to discernment of a new way of being presbytery, which was in turn adopted by the Executive Committee and then by the presbytery as a whole.

Loss of Beloved Staff – As part of the mission re-design, seven current staff positions were eliminated, and those who served in those positions were bidden sad farewell. Those seven had served us with great energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and are sorely missed on staff. Stated Clerk Jay Lewis also resigned after many years of faithful service to our presbytery, to take a pastoral call.

Welcoming New Staff – Search committees were constituted, conducted their search processes, and brought for election three new staff members to presbytery’s December meeting: Beverly James as Associate Minister for Discipleship, Ayana Teter as Associate Minister for Outreach, and Jeff Tindall as Stated Clerk.

Another New Church Development is Born A new church probe was launched as the “Hazelwood House of Prayer for Everyone,” under the leadership of Karen Battle, presbytery’s former Director of Justice Ministries and Mission, in cooperation with the Hazelwood Presbyterian Church.

Crestfield Expands its FacilitiesCrestfield Camp & Conference Center, already a crown jewel in the PCUSA, added two state of the art super-cabins and broken ground for the community youth building – and more new facilities are on the way, as the Crestfield Capital Campaign continues forward.

Malawi Partnership Grows – A highly reinvigorated Malawi Partnership emerged in 2012, with Pittsburgh Presbytery sponsoring an innovative, spectacularly successful famine relief program for Malawi called “a-MAIZE-ing Grace.” Also, seeds were sown for a new three-way partnership between Malawi’s Blantyre Synod, Pittsburgh Presbytery, and the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. A team from our presbytery will join representatives from Blantyre in attending the General Assembly in Sudan later this month.

New Shoots Emerging – At the core of our new mission design is the gathering of congregations and leaders into four newly-constituted branches, for the purpose of strengthening our ministry of the Gospel by deepening our relationships with each other. Even though full branch formation is slated for launch in 2013, already in 2012 various groups of branch leaders began gathering to encourage one another in ministry, and to coordinate ministry efforts in mission projects, Christian education, officer training, and facilities development.

Congregational Departures – To our great sorrow, three of our beloved congregations with long and rich histories as part of the Pittsburgh Presbytery – Round Hill, Mt. Lebanon United, and First Bakerstown – voted to leave our fellowship to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Upon learning of their votes to depart, Pittsburgh Presbytery appointed Administrative Commissions for each of these, to negotiate settlements that will enable our presbytery to grant them full dismissal with their property.

Walking our Talk – In 2012 we adopted a new mission statement, and our 150 congregations and fellowships lived into it by joining our Lord’s ministry of proclaiming the Gospel, welcoming strangers, healing the broken, doing justice, showing mercy, and walking together humbly before God. We said sad farewells to beloved leaders who received new calls or were promoted to “the church triumphant,” and welcomed with gladness new leaders of congregations and ministries within our bounds. In our manifold forms of gathering, we sought faithfully “to provoke one another to love and good deeds, encouraging one another” to glorify God in all things. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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