Monday in Ministry

July 28, 2014



Dear Friends of Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, welcome to this week's edition of our e-letter, Monday in Ministry.  Our goal is to highlight things going on throughout the Church:  within our Presbytery, in our congregations, as well as in the Synod of the Northeast and across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Your input is valued, and your comments are always welcomed!



In This Issue


Host Church Requested

From the Stated Clerk/Communicator

As Mark Twain said...

Around the Presbytery



Host Church Requested for October Stated Presbytery meeting


The Leadership Team, in accordance with our Bylaws and Standing Rules, has set the October Stated Meeting to take place on Tuesday, October 28.  We would love to have one of our sessions offer to host that meeting.  The responsibilities would include providing a meal, which can be as traditional or as casual as the church decides to do.  Sometimes, a church will partner with a neighboring church to co-host the meeting.  If your session would like to offer to host the Oct. 28 meeting, please contact Steve Plank at (315) 632-5698, or  Thanks for considering this.



From the Stated Clerk/Communicator


Thoughts across a backyard fence


There is a wonderful couple who live in the house behind us.  Even over the short period of the past nine months that we've lived in our home, they've become friends.  In the past two weeks, Shirley has shared two things with me, inviting me to read them.  One was an article in the magazine, The Hidden Child.  This semi-annual journal publishes stories about some of the Jewish children during the Holocaust, and the families who hid them from the Nazis.  The article she asked me to read was entitled, "Do We Always Have to Forgive," written by Rabbi Leo Michel Abrami, who was himself a "hidden child" in Normandy, and is now teaching at the Jewish Studies Institute in Phoenix, AZ.  In his article he shared a bit of a story related from the experiences of Simon Wiesenthal.  This was the tie, naturally, to the book that Shirley also invited me to read, which was Wiesenthal's work, The Sunflower.  Both works led me to ponder further my own thoughts about sin, forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation.  Both works affirmed the traditional Jewish teaching on forgiveness, which, briefly, is this: "...the Talmudic Sages held that God absolves all of our sins against Him, but not the offenses committed against our fellow human beings, until we have sought reconciliation with them and made peace with them.  (Why?)  It is because only those who have been wronged can forgive."  I affirm the Sages' wisdom and beliefs about forgiveness.


However, I believe there is something more... at least one other element to the whole, complex issue of forgiveness.  I believe that when someone has wronged me, I need to offer them forgiveness so that I can move past the hurt and anger I feel, and then move on.  If I hold on to unforgiveness, it usually does not affect the person who wronged me, and therefore only affects me.


From my perspective, when I forgive someone it does not mean that I've forgotten, nor does it mean that I think everything is now okay.  For me, forgiveness is one part of the process of reconciliation, but reconciliation can take place only if the one who committed the wrong asks for forgiveness and demonstrates some degree of repentance.  In other words, reconciliation is a two-way street; both parties have a role to play in sincerity if reconciliation is to be even a possibility. However, forgiveness is one-way; I offer it as a way of opening the door to the other person, but also as a way for me to let go of feelings that otherwise could become all-consuming.


Let me offer an example.  A congregation I served had a treasurer who stole a little over $120,000 from the church.  He was a 4th-generation member of the church, and most of his family and friends were very active in the church.  I was asked by a couples' group in the church to talk with them about their hurt and anger and sense of betrayal by this man who had been a valued member of that group for some 40 years.  In the process of our conversation, I talked about what I see as the difference between reconciliation and forgiveness.  As a Christian, I do believe that I have a responsibility to forgive someone who comes to me and asks for my forgiveness for some wrong they have done to me.  As a Christian group, we had a responsibility to forgive that man if he came and asked, demonstrating a sense of culpability, contriteness, and repentance.  However, I told them that whether or not he ever came to us in that way (he never did, by the way), we had to get to the point where we could forgive him in our hearts, because otherwise the hurt and anger would eat away at us.  We had to forgive him, whether or not he asked, because we needed to be able to be healed and to move on.


It is not an easy thing, this whole business of sin, repentance, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation.  But isn't this part of the heart of that most familiar of prayers, the Prayer that Jesus taught us?  Weekly (maybe even daily!) we pray that God will "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."  May God help us to embody that Prayer.


Blessings and peace,




As Mark Twain said...


Mark Twain was famous for saying, among other things, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."  Due to an error in record-keeping by the Board of Pensions, a member of our Presbytery legitimately can lay claim to Twain's comment!  Apparently, a retired Presbyterian minister, James R. Hughes, did indeed die this past May 19.  However, our retired minister James Hughes - the Rev. Samuel James Hughes - is still very much alive!  James' wife, Vivian, reports that many of you have been so very thoughtful to send her your sincere condolences, but they obviously were premature... for which we are thankful to God!  Word is still pending from the Board of Pensions... Something other than "oops" would be most appreciated, I'm sure.



Around the Presbytery


Last Week's Special Meeting

At the Special Presbytery Meeting that was held last Tuesday evening at Pebble Hill Church, those present voted to approve the ordination of Ms. Lorrie Cooney as a Presbyterian teaching elder, and also voted to approve her call to pastoral service to New Hope Presbyterian Church in Parish, NY.  The probable date for this is Sunday, August 24; announcement will be made as soon as plans are finalized.


Officer Training planned for 2014-2015

Several teaching elders from our presbytery have gathered to begin planning an officer training series (Ruling Elders and Deacons) for the coming year. We are looking at four sessions, offered on Sundays - late afternoon through dinner - on the following dates: November 9 at Northminster, January 11 at Liverpool, March 8 at Westminster, and May 17 at Pebble Hill.  The series will be based on Steven P. Eason's manual for developing church officers, "Making Disciples, Making Leaders." Each session includes worship and a meal together, sections on theology and polity, and sharing in small groups. Mark your calendars now; more details will be coming in September.  If you'd like to attend the next planning meeting, it will be held on Wednesday, September 10 at 12:30 at Pebble Hill Church. Bring a bag lunch if you like, beverages will be provided. The planning team to date consists of Garrett Anderson, Pete Shidemantle, Patricia Simmons, Karen Dimon, and Sandy Sanderson.


NYC Mission Trip

First Pres. Church in Skaneateles youth and their advisors, including Associate Pastor Mario Bolivar, spent most of a week recently on a mission trip to New York City.  They helped, served, prayed, shared, and touched the lives of many people during their sojourn to the city.  And Jesus said, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me."



The Rev. Steven W. Plank, Stated Clerk/Communicator

P. O. Box 6010

Syracuse, NY  13217-6010

(315) 632-5698


"I am the vine, you are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear

much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15:5


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