Monday in Ministry

March 17, 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

One Great Hour of Sharing

From the Stated Clerk/Communicator

Around the Presbytery

South Sudan

Around the Synod and PC(USA)



One Great Hour of Sharing


Congregations are invited and encouraged to participate in the annual One Great Hour of Sharing special offering of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Since 1949 Presbyterians have joined with millions of other Christians through One Great Hour of Sharing to share God's love with our neighbors-in-need around the world. Your generous gifts to this Special Offering help provide relief those affected by natural disasters, provide food to the hungry, and assist in helping to empower the poor and oppressed.  This offering supports the ongoing work and ministries of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Self-Development of People.  Check with your congregation about when this special offering will be taken.  You may find more information here:



From the Stated Clerk/Communicator


You may have heard the news.  It seems that Fred Phelps may be close to death.  In case you can't quite place the significance of the person, Phelps founded the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  This small, but extremely vocal and controversial church, is best known for their picketing of things like funerals of military persons.  Their signs condemn, in unspeakable language, gay and lesbian individuals in particular, as well as America itself in general.  They believe that the deaths of our service men and women are a sign of God's judgment on our nation because we "condone" homosexuality.  Their signs are some of the most vitriolic, hate-filled things I have ever seen, and their actions have been hurtful beyond measure - to families, to the general witness of the Church, to Christianity in this nation.  People outside of the Church look at them and think all of us Christians must be crazy, hateful people who serve a vengeful, hateful God... just as people look at groups like the Taliban and assume that all Muslims are violent extremists who want to kill anyone not like them.


To say that I have mixed feelings about the news of Phelps' impending death would be an understatement.  One of his sons, who left the "church" long ago, has said that Phelps was excommunicated from his own congregation last fall.  If that's the case, then Fred must be facing his mortality incredibly alone - isolated from the sect he founded, and alienated from many members of his own family.  I do not want to say that I hate Fred Phelps, everything he has stood for, and all his teachings and actions that have caused such incalculable pain in so many people. However, it's Lent... and during Lent I remember that I'm called to be honest before God and myself about my sins.  And so I confess to you, my sisters and brothers, that "hate" may not be a completely inaccurate description of what I have felt.


But during Lent I also am called to remember that I not only need to ask for forgiveness for my own sins, but also to extend forgiveness to all who have wronged me and others. It's easy to say that I forgive somebody in the abstract.  But Jesus did not love us in the abstract.  Jesus did not love his enemies in the abstract.  Jesus did not suffer in the abstract.  Jesus was not betrayed in the abstract.  Jesus did not hang on the cross and die in the abstract.  To love my enemies, and to speak words of forgiveness (whether they ask for it or not), means that I need to pray for Fred Phelps, because, as much as I detest him and everything he stands for, he is my brother in Christ.  He is a beloved child of God.  He is a sinner in need of God's love and grace... just as I am.


When I ask God to "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us," that doesn't just refer to somebody who took my parking place or who had a cartful of groceries at Wegman's in the line for "12 items or less."  It means Fred Phelps. It meant Osama bin Laden.  It means ___ (fill in the blank for the person whom you most detest).


So, whatever he is facing at this very moment, may God have mercy on Fred Phelps and surround him with grace.  May he begin to experience even now the love that he found so hard to extend to others.  May God be with him and fill him with the healing light of Jesus.

And may God so be with us all, and with everyone.


Lenten blessings, friends,




Around the Presbytery


Choir Concert

The Colleges Chorale of Hobert and William Smith Colleges will be singing at the First Presbyterian Church in Skaneateles.  The concert will be held on Friday, April 4, at 8:00 p.m. at the church.  Works sung will be pieces by Lasso, Palestrina, Hassler, Sweelinck, Monteverdi, and various contemporary American composers.  A free will offering will be received.


Youth Handbell Choir

A community handbell choir for youth is meeting every week at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn.  Rehearsals are open to all youth in grades 5-12, and are held at the church every Wednesday from 6:00-7:00, beginning this Wednesday, March 19.  Contact the church for more information:  (315) 253-3331.



Special Note about South Sudan


December 17, 2013 there was political instability in the new nation of South Sudan, as President and Vice President each tried to remove the other. Because the President was Dinka and the Vice President Nuer Tribe, this led to rioting between the two tribes. While tens of thousands have been killed and villages and cities burned in Bor, Malakal, Juba, the perpetuation of this destruction appears to be displaced, disenfranchised youth gangs who are crisscrossing the countryside causing destruction. First Presbyterian Church Skaneateles created the John Dau Foundation, which 2005-2007 created a Clinic in the Village of Duk Pauel, N.Bor Jonglei State, South Sudan, literally with the volunteer labor of Contractors, Doctors, Nurses, and the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church Skaneateles and financial support and prayers from across the Presbytery and Synod.


May 2007- through February 2014, the Duk Lost Boys Clinic was making major in-roads

in health care. Whole Villages were inoculated against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Whooping Cough and Tetanus. 180 Midwives had been thoroughly trained. We were diagnosing and treating TB, Malaria and AIDs. We were providing Pre-Natal Care, as well as Surgically treating Gun Shot Wounds, infections, and through the Moran Eye Hospital curing Blindness. We had also created a Malnutrition program.


On February 28th, 2014 the Duk Lost Boys Clinic Compound was looted. They took all Food, Medicines, Fuel, etc. The Paramount Chief of the Dinka Tribe put his life on the line, pledging that in order to burn the Clinic they would have to kill him first. The Rebels took the Paramount Chief captive. Anything that could be sold was taken. Anything that was left was broken. All of the outbuildings, for TB, for Malnutrition, etc. were destroyed. HOWEVER, the Clinic building, while they broke windows and doors and looted, they did not burn. The following day, the kidnappers holding the chief were all killed liberating the Paramount Chief. Good News is that the Chief, all of the patients and staff are safe. The only persons killed at Duk Payuel were the kidnappers. The Ultra-sound machine for diagnosing position and complications of pregnancy was hidden in another location. The Ambulance purchased through a fundraiser in Skaneateles last September was hidden in another location and is safe. The Board of Directors of the John Dau Foundation are pledged to rebuild and continue. The Ministry of Health of Republic of South Sudan prior to this, was providing all pharmaceuticals and we anticipate they will resume when it is safe. Ten years ago, there was no Health Care in this region. There was no Clinic building. No one in the area had more than a 3rd Grade Education. The expectation among the people was apathy. Today, while damaged the Clinic building still stands, having been defended by the Paramount Chief of the Dinka Tribe. All the staff are safe, well trained, and anxious to return to work. Community expectations are that the Clinic is where Health care can be provided. The Government is willing to continue providing medicines. There is a great deal of fear and cynicism to overcome, but the faith of those involved is that this is an experience in the journey, this is not the end.



Around the Synod and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


How's this for a Missional Statement?

"The Synod of the Northeast is a regional community of presbyteries and congregations learning to respond to God's call to become agents of divine justice, transforming the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the Northeast into a community of hospitality and welcome for all. We recognize that we have not always lived into the gift of our great diversity. We have not always fully welcomed all those within the communities we serve, including people of different racial or ethnic identities, economic classes, genders, abilities, sexualities, immigration statuses, or those who are marginalized in other ways. Finding deep joy in our differences, we commit to equipping the saints for a courageous and steadfast witness of love and hope; learning, growing, worshiping and working together."


Eco-Palms for Palm Sunday

Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, accented by the waving of palm branches, is re-enacted each Palm Sunday. Palm fronds do not always represent the same jubilation they do for us. Eco-Palms offer an alternative. The palms come from communities in Mexico and Guatemala where workers are paid fairly & engage in sustainable harvesting.  Interested in finding out more about this amazing program?  Just click here:




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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