We all come from a past that may not be colored with the beauty of the Lord. Meaning we’ve “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We are thankful for our new brothers and sisters who have allowed the true Gospel of Christ to have pre-eminence in their life.
PSA (Presbyterian Student Association)
Clemson University/Fort Hill Presbyterian
by Al Masters
Laura called after a thunderstorm on a hot, muggy summer afternoon. Would you be interested and willing to come back to PSA as Interim Associate Pastor? Kelly had just resigned as she was moving on to chaplain residency, I was just finishing an Interim position at Tyger River Pres. near Spartanburg, and wondering what next road would rise up to meet me. Perfect timing!
But would it work? An almost 70 year old, very low tech, pastor returning to Clemson and college students after being away for three years…I was excited about the opportunity and anxious about being effective.
Flash forward to summer 2017…what a year! Another Game Day with Louisville, the Tigers go on to win the Natty, students accept the old guy again, YAV Intern Linda arrives from Korea, Alex choreographs “over the top” PSA Sunday, we make a new Clemson fan, Pam, in West Virginia, on the mission trip, and hear an exclusive David LaMotte concert in Montreat fall retreat.
As Fort Hill Pres. completes necessary renovation and considers the shift from attractional to missional perspective, so PSA also takes an extended Interim pause to begin developing a long range strategic plan for future sustainability partly driven by the need for additional funding. In other words, I get to work and play with the students another year-how cool is that!
Transition times are great opportunities for fresh energy and ideas as well as anxious times as the future path unfolds. As seniors graduate and new freshmen arrive, we now push the “pause” button to evaluate and re-examine the past as we prepare for new leadership. In addition to working with a super, proactive student Council, my task is to build relationships with neighboring PCUSA churches and contact PSA alums to collect stories and support. We plan to hold regional gatherings of alums and celebrate all the campus ministers and Interns who have served PSA and cultivated over 50 servant-leaders for the PCUSA. My “research” will focus on three basic questions: what did, does PSA mean to you as a student? How important was staff leadership (Directors and Interns)? How important was the building?
We will keep some PSA sacred traditions—Old Stone worship, senior night, Christmas party, spring mission trip, fall retreat, beach week, PSA Sunday, as we also explore becoming a more diverse community engaged with the University at large, especially the international students, and continue to deepen relationships with Fort Hill members.
As students and culture change over the years, we keep constant our priority commitment to nurture and challenge their spiritual journeys, to provide a safe place for hard questions and honest fellowship, to assist local churches in honoring baptismal vows of support and confirmation. It’s a privilege to be a link in the wonderful history of Fort Hill and Foothills Presbytery role in campus ministry. Even though I could (maybe should) retire, it’s pretty cool to be with such gifted, bright, funny and dedicated students as they mature through the college years. Sure beats playing golf (I’m lousy) and sitting around with a bunch of seniors talking about our latest colonoscopy!
By Debbie Foster
Foothills Presbytery youth ministry have had quite a month of March!
Mini-Montreat, the annual high school spring retreat was a smashing success. Over 120 participants gathered in North Carolina March 17-19th for weekend of faith and fellowship. The group explored the idea of life as a balancing act as keynote speaker Andy Casto-Waters encouraged participants to recognize that a Life of faith is a balanced life, to seek those around who can show us how, while remembering that sometimes we need to take some risks.
One story in particular captures the weekend: On Saturday night, four PYC seniors had a chance to tell their stories as they responded to questions like, “How has serving on PYC helped you grow in your faith?” The high school youth, volunteers, and leaders listened as each senior shared how much of an impact PYC has had on his or her life. “It has become a second youth group,” one senior said. Another spoke of how much he has learned about church leadership and public speaking. It was a powerful moment when youth across the presbytery got to see how serving the church as Christ’s disciples can take shape in amazing and unexpected ways.
That same weekend, Ministry Architects was invited to complete a youth ministry assessment, providing the Presbytery with a clear picture of its current ministry and detailed recommendations for how the Presbytery might move strategically toward its desired future. Over 140 youth, volunteers, youth workers, clergy and presbytery staff met with Ministry Architects to share their hopes and dreams about presbytery youth ministry.
Ministry Architects presented their findings to the Committee on Shared Ministry, the Youth Ministry Task Force and members of the Youth Ministry Roundtable. The report is available online here https://foothillspresbytery.org/events/youth-ministry-assessment-session/ All are encouraged to read this initial assessment of the presbytery’s unique assets and challenges, along with key recommendations for the shaping of the next expressions of youth ministry in and through the presbytery.
The Foothills Youth Ministry Coaching Cohort also continues to meet. Each youth worker in this group of eight has selected a project to undertake for the year as they gather to learn, practice, and process ministry together.
As reflect on the great things God has done in our presbytery youth ministry in these past weeks we look towards the future with eager anticipation. We hope you’ll join us in jubilant celebration and prayerful eagerness for the years to come.
by Scott Neely
In the fall of 2015, First Presbyterian Church-Woodruff took a risk.
Four months earlier, in May 2015, Landrum Presbyterian had ventured into a different model of pastoral leadership. Cognizant of the strain that a full-time pastor’s salary can place on a smaller congregation’s budget, the Session at Landrum decided to try something new. With the support of a small start-up grant from Foothills Presbytery and under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Gene Lassiter, Landrum developed a staffing scenario based on two very part-time team members: a stated-supply pastor charged with worship leadership, moderating the Session, and focused pastoral care; and a community minister, assigned to further pastoral care, building community connections, and teaching a Bible study. The limited scope of these duties communicated that any other work to be done in the church would have to come from congregation members.
The change that resulted was immediate. The congregation quickly found its financial footing and began building reserves. Member involvement and worship attendance shifted up, noticeably. Visitors began attending, then joined. But most importantly, the energy in the church had changed, and with it the congregation’s focus on outreach to the community. The church had stepped out of the stress of an uncertain future and into the power of an energized present.
First-Woodruff adopted this model in September 2015, again via a grant from Presbytery and led by the arrival of Rev. Steve Phillips in the very part-time but highly focused role of pastor. What had happened in Landrum kicked into gear in Woodruff—a burst of new energy, realigned personnel duties and finances, and an expansion of the already notable warmth of worship and outreach characteristic of the congregation.
But the physical plant of First-Woodruff was in need of attention. Repairs had been deferred under earlier budget constraints. With a strengthening financial position, the church began to prioritize renovations and interview contractors.
Then the Spirit moved with power. During Christmas 2015, a young adult in the church became engaged. After years of planning to have a destination wedding, she announced that she would be married in her home church. She loved what was unfolding in the congregation. She wanted to celebrate here. The wedding would be the coming November.
Energy surged in the congregation. Now renovations had a deadline. The first step was to repair the roof. As this began and next projects were readied, the pastor received a phone call. A men’s group at Westminster Presbyterian in Greenville, where he had served previously, wanted his guidance. Years before he had helped this group organize an annual local mission, using their love of construction to offer renovation and repair services to homeowners and service organizations.
“The place we were going to this year isn’t able to accommodate us as planned,” they explained. “Do you know of a place we could work?”
“You should come check out First-Woodruff,” said Steve. “This is a special place. And work is needed.”
The leader of Westminster-Greenville’s mission came to tour the church with Steve and a group of elders from Woodruff. They drew up a punch list. And over three weeks in the summer of 2016, teams from Westminster-Greenville renovated the Sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and education building of First-Woodruff. Church members welcomed them enthusiastically, preparing lunch each day and supporting their work. In a matter of weeks, the facility was restored to its full beauty.
On November 12, 2016, the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian-Woodruff—renovated by the hands of brothers from Westminster-Greenville, fueled by the hospitality of First-Woodruff, with the support of pastoral staff from First-Spartanburg and Westminster-Greenville, aided by a grant from Presbytery, in a process inspired by an experiment at Landrum Presbyterian—filled with worshipers to celebrate the marriage of two young members.
With savings from the donated construction work and the church’s strengthened finances, First-Woodruff has begun a new local mission of funding classroom supplies for public school teachers.
See what energy moves between us.
Series of discussions finds common goal of strengthening the church
by Christian Iosso and Mike Hoyt | Special to Presbyterian News Service
SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. – Teams from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and Foothills Presbytery in upstate South Carolina met Saturday, February 18 through Tuesday, February 21. The two groups gathered to discuss differences of opinion on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should make known its Christian social witness.
Planning for the meeting began at General Assembly 222 (2016) in Portland, Oregon, when one of Foothills Presbytery’s nine overtures proposed that ACSWP impose a moratorium on providing reports and guidance to the General Assembly. Rather, Foothills Presbytery wanted ACSWP to focus its efforts on educating Presbyterians about policies and theological convictions already affirmed, and on encouraging conversations among members, including those who disagree with General Assembly policies.
While the General Assembly didn’t adopt any Foothills Presbytery’s overtures, it did call on PC(USA) congregations to recommit to a biblical witness focused on values of unity, community, diversity and transformation upon which the presbytery based its series of overtures. The General Assembly reaffirmed the denomination’s foundational commitment to social justice and social witness. The Assembly also appointed one member of Foothills’ “General Assembly Reform” team, Debbie Foster, to the Vision 2020 Committee.
Following a discussion of the timeliness of complex overtures and the limited time allocated to discussion and discernment by Assembly committees, ACSWP representatives agreed with the Foothills group that greater engagement with “the people in the pew” is required to educate members on the church’s social teachings. The ACSWP representatives differed with Foothills’ team on matters of polity and practicality, while Foothills made a several part case for a more focused General Assembly and other changes in social witness (and other matters) in the presbyteries.
As a commissioner to the Portland Assembly serving on the Social Justice Committee, the Rev. Mike Hoyt, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville, expressed concern that the large number of complex and controversial issues being considered at any given Assembly may prohibit the depth and diligence of examination these issues deserve. “At some point,” Hoyt said, “we have to recognize human finitude and the limits of what can be done well in two days of committee meetings, and two days of plenary.”
On polity, Foothills Presbytery has long advocated for a form of government or constitution that is not easily changed by frequent relatively small amendments. At the General Assembly itself, Foothills would seek to set a higher bar for incoming business, allocating more discernment to presbyteries, and the use of supermajorities or no voting at all to push for more consensus. ACSWP acknowledged the rapid pace of business in some GA committees, and in some floor debates, but stood by traditional emphases on majority rule and encouragement of multiple voices from more presbyteries.
ACSWP reaffirmed to the group its support for recent Assembly votes on inclusive ordination and marriage, and divestment from U.S. companies supporting the occupation of Palestine, even though both initiatives came from presbytery overtures and other GA bodies. In January 2015, Foothills Presbytery approved the change in the definition of marriage by a vote of 84-61.
The Foothills and ACSWP teams both showed deep familiarity with the church and its ambiguities. On some social-ethical issues, the General Assembly is seen as making too much impact, while on others the GA did not seem to make enough difference. The group asked the following clarifying questions:
- Whose responsibility is it to take the studies and statements of the Assembly to congregations for discussion and action?
- How effective are the church’s communications strategies and how can pastors be helped to deal with controversies—some of which are seen as unnecessary?
- Are ACSWP reports sometimes too academic or more oriented to the needs of the Washington and the United Nations than to adult study classes?
- Is Foothills doing enough public witness itself, even in areas where congregations are doing very significant social ministries?
Both groups were united in grieving the numbers of congregations and individual Presbyterians who have left partly in response to recent GA decisions, knowing that congregational and presbytery culture generally determines how those decisions are viewed. And both groups know that younger people in our culture tend to be less traditional and often associate the church with conservative positions quite different from those of the Assembly—about which they have not yet heard.
Among other events for the ACSWP visitors was a presentation by Dr. Christine Darden, a former NASA scientist and pioneering African-American woman whose group is featured in the hit film, Hidden Figures. Dr. Darden, a recent co-chair of ACSWP, spoke at the Mattoon Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Christian Iosso, Coordinator of ACSWP, led an Adult Forum class at Fourth Presbyterian, Greenville, on the Social Creeds of the Churches, 1908 and 2008.
On Monday evening a group of comprised of chaplains, pastors, and medical and mental health professionals met to discuss the proposals for ending the “war on drugs” contained in a report being circulated for comment by ACSWP, “Healing Not Punishment,” which is in part a response to states decriminalizing marijuana.
At the invitation of the Presbytery, representatives of ACSWP attended the Foothills Presbytery meeting on Tuesday, which featured a celebration of the presbytery’s history and mission. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Steve Webb, an economist co-chairing ACSWP, presented a discussion of the General Assembly’s recently adopted report on “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace.” While re-affirming the church’s preference for a “two-state solution,” the Assembly report documents the de facto reality of a one state controlled in almost all respects by the government of Israel.
Presbytery members also shared a six-week study resource developed by the presbytery in 2012, “An Introduction to Middle East Issues, and The Witness of Palestinian Christians.” Both groups felt the church’s reports explain the nature of the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, much more carefully than most of the spectrum of U.S. media present it, returning the conversation to how the church can better witness for a just peace there, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Represented at the meeting from Foothills Presbytery were:
Rev. Gordon Raynal, Stated Clerk
Rev. Debbie Foster, Associate Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Tom Evans, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC
Rev. Dr. Mike Hoyt, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC
Lee Close, Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC
Dr. Ted Morrison, Ruling Elder, St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC
Rev. Bill Lancaster, Teaching Elder, Foothills Presbytery, Honorably Retired
Rev. Dr. Merwyn Johnson, Teaching Elder, Foothills Presbytery, Honorably Retired
Representatives from ACSWP included:
Dr. Christine Darden, recent Co-Chair, and retired NASA scientist, Hampton, VA
Rev. Dr. Ray Roberts, Co-Chair, Pastor, River Road Presbyterian, Richmond, VA
Dr. Steven Webb, Co-Chair, retired economist, World Bank; Reston, VA
Dr. Robert Trawick, ACSWP member, Professor at St. Thomas Aquinas College, Blauvelt, NY
Rev. Dr. Chris Iosso, Coordinator, Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, Louisville, KY
Rev. Terry Alexander, HR, Charlotte, NC; liaison to ACSWP from the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns
Dr. Kirk Nolan, Professor of Religion at Presbyterian College, member of the Social Ethics Network of the PC(USA)
Used with permission:
Twelve Educators, Youth Directors and Ministers from Foothills Presbytery attended the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) national gathering Jan. 25-28 in Denver. APCE is a network of those who are passionate about educational ministry. We connect, enrich, empower, and sustain one another as we model, teach and share the story of Jesus Christ.
Focused on the theme “God with us in the Chaos,” the 2017 gathering offered education, worship and resources and a network of professionals to help us all ponder how to find God’s order in a complicated world.
(Allyson Helive, TJ Ramaley, Mary Morrison, Pressley Cox, Donna Foster, Susan Tompkins, Debbie Foster, Barbara Stoop, Susan Felton, Amy Rawlings, Deborah Broadwell, Tom Malone)
The conference drew more than 600 people (pastors, Christian educators, youth workers, children’s ministry directors, adult spiritual formation leaders and more) from 43 U.S. states, Canada and Pakistan. This year marks APCE’s 46th year. The organization now has more than 850 members from five denominations: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in Canada and Reformed Church in America.
In addition to a large resource marketplace there was a Spirituality Center for participants and a “Chaos Un-packed” space for rest and renewal. Each day included a time for worship, music and a presentation from amazing speakers: Nadia Bolz-Weber (Lutheran Pastor House for all Sinners and Saints & best selling author) Denise Anderson (Co-Moderator PCUSA and Pastor Unity Presbyterian Church Maryland) Jon Brown, (Pastor of Old Bergen Church) Larron Jackson (Minister of the American Baptist of the Rocky Mountains) and Shannon Johnson Kershner (Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago).
More than 60 workshops were offered throughout the week on topics including developing resilience skills to help young people deal with grief; the pastor as educator; praying Scripture; and adult faith formation in the 21st century. Foothills participants are gathering February 16th at Easley Presbyterian to share their favorite workshop highlights and “take-aways” from the conference with each other and other Educators in our Presbytery.
A big highlight of our week was when our own Susan Tompkins (First Greer) was recognized as completing all the requirements to be a Certified Christian Educator in the PCUSA. There will be a service of recognition for Susan at our 102 Stated Meeting of Presbytery February 21 at First Church Spartanburg,
By Dana Waters (Associate for Youth and Mission Fort Hill Church)
One cold and snowy Sunday afternoon, three youth groups from Foothills Presbytery (Anderson/Pickens Region) came together for a concert. Youth from Fort Hill and First Presbyterian traveled to Central Presbyterian in Anderson to see Sam Burchfield perform. Sam, as many of you may know, is a child of this presbytery and of Fort Hill Church. He has been the music leader for our presbytery’s Middle School Conference in Bonclarken and the Montreat Youth Conference.
In spite of the chilly weather and the looming college football championship game, the youth and adult leaders of these three churches made a concerted effort to join together. They broke the ice by playing games in the gym. Then the youth shared a meal and conversation with one another at small tables. Following the meal, they joined in to sing songs of praise and worship as Sam took the stage and played songs both old and new. It was a delightful evening for all.
As the group sang “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” one part of the last stanza stood out in particular on this night:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart; O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.
There are so many things around us that lead us to wander. Sometimes we wander away from God. Other times we wander away from church or youth group or perhaps we just lose sight of one another. This multi-church, multi-youth group experience reminded me of how closely connected we are to all of our sisters and brothers in Christ, especially those right here in Foothills Presbytery. I, for one, am eager to see more of these interconnectional church events take place in the year ahead.
Take our hearts, O God. Yes, take them and seal them as you bind us to one another!
by Erin F. Farry, Campus Minister, UKirk
What an exciting year this has been for UKirk Furman! With the largest freshmen class in Furman’s history arriving on campus this fall, the leadership team worked incredibly hard to get to know and welcome this freshmen class. After several fun events during orientation week, UKirk Furman welcomed over 26 students to our first Tuesday night gathering of the semester. Our moderator, Maddy Gentry, a senior education major and member of Westminster of Greenville, says that “It is sad to think that this is my last year as an active member of UKirk Furman, but I was really excited to welcome new freshmen in because I wanted to have a new base of students to pass this special group along to.” We have been blessed by a dedicated and strong freshmen class and look forward to the many ways that they will grow and expand the ministry of UKirk Furman.
Throughout this year we have visited several congregations for worship, met weekly to share in fellowship, study, and prayer, and participated in once a month mission opportunities through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We are currently counting down the days for Montreat College Conference in January. I am happy to share that we will be taking a group of 24 students to this weeklong conference—three times the number of students that attended last year from Furman! Of this group, 13 of these students are freshmen and for many of them it will be their first time through those sacred gates (despite many of them being members of PC(USA) congregations).
I have been privileged this year to witness the growth of many college students, the growth of our ministry, and the growth of the Kingdom of God. Freshman Victoria Melin of Johns Creek Presbyterian in Georgia, says that “UKirk Furman is a group of unwavering, kind, inclusive, ready, and keen students who want to be apart of something bigger than themselves. For me, being in this campus ministry has truly strengthen my faith in ways I didn’t know possible while I was beginning a new season of life, and I am so overjoyed to share my highs and lows of the day with my new friends in Christ.”
I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as the Campus Minister to UKirk Furman and to work with our many partners throughout this presbytery. We appreciate your continued prayers, gifts and donations of snacks, and for sharing members of your congregation to serve on our support team! Thank you for your care, passion, and support of campus ministry. Together we are loving, equipping, and growing the Church.
by Jennifer F. Sheorn, Associate Pastor of Young Adults and Missions, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Greenville
On Saturday, November 5th, nine of us set out early in the morning to travel to Columbia, SC, to work on a home that needed repairs from the October 2016 floods. This particular home, owned by Ms. Davis, had been sitting empty for over a year. Ms. Davis’ basement flooded sending water up the walls to the living area causing mold and mildew to set in.
A wonderful organization, St. Bernard’s Project (SBP), works in several cities across the U.S., including Columbia, to help people rebuild their homes and lives from natural disasters. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) works with SBP to fill volunteers and complete projects. SBP had been working on Ms. Davis home for a few weeks prior to our arrival.
We had wonderful volunteers (lay people and ministers) from First Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, Fourth and St. Giles Presbyterian churches. We mainly worked in three rooms dry-walling walls and ceilings. Everyone worked well together and enjoyed the fellowship as well as learning new skills. After working all day, we met in Clinton at the Fatz Café to break bread together one more time and to share laughter from our time together.
Sharing the GOOD NEWS in the midst of a long, hot summer!
by LeAnne White and Debbie Foster
- Central used the youth curriculum Group offered to create a “youth crew” for rising 6th and 7th graders. They had their own curriculum and did lots of mission work around the church! “We also welcomed a child with special needs this year at VBS. She was turned away from other churches before but their volunteers stepped up in a great way to help her celebrate with them!”
- Eastminster had another successful one day VBS followed by a Sunday morning worship celebration.
- Easley partnered with First Methodist Church across the street for the third year in a row for their VBS! During the week their tweens collected enough money for 5 wells for Marion Medical Mission ($400 each!) They also hosted a Ten Thousand Villages store at the church at VBS.
- First Anderson invited their sister church, Salem Presbyterian to join them and they brought 9 kids and 2 adult volunteers! “We are excited about growing that partnership next year!” The children raised $1000 for the SC Sea Turtles Rescue!
- First Spartanburg children raised $2000 for First Presbyterian’s Winter Warmth project which ensures children in local schools have new winter coats to wear in the fall. “Blessing upon blessing, worth all the hard work.”
- Fort Hill partnered with their neighbors at First Baptist Church Clemson for a second year for VBS. “We met at First Baptist for most of the program. Nursery and some recreation was held at Fort Hill……We experienced another joyous and happy VBS with one another.” Children learned “Jesus gives us hope, direction, love and courage.”
- Piedmont pastor Alyson Helvie said, “I continue to be amazed at the adult leadership and volunteering spirit in our small church. The adults at PPC are so willing to give of their time, talents, and resources to share the love of Christ with the children of this community.”
- Pickens celebrated another successful week with many families attending from their child-development center and had a child and youth led worship service the Sunday following VBS.
- Second traveled back in time to the Jerusalem marketplace for an exciting VBS experience this year. Participants rotated through play time, music, and visiting the various tents of the marketplace, which was a highlight for their children, youth, and adults.
Most VBS programs were at maximum capacity for space and volunteer-to-child ratios. Over 900 children were served, loved, encouraged & inspired through the amazing efforts of staff and volunteers! Thanks be to God!