Monday in Ministry

March 24, 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

Keeping Focus

From the Stated Clerk/Communicator

Around the Presbytery

Around the Synod

Around the PC(USA)



Keeping in Focus in our churches


When the Form of Government of our Presbyterian Book of Order was rewritten a couple of years ago, there was an intentional effort to return to what are known as the "notes" of the Reformed tradition.  This is how it is stated in the Book of Order:

"Where Christ is, there is the true Church.  Since the earliest days of the Reformation, Reformed Christians have marked the presence of the true Church wherever the Word of God is truly preached and heard, the Sacraments are rightly administered, and ecclesiastical discipline is uprightly administered." (F-1.0303)


In other words, we Presbyterians believe that the Church should be about the tasks of making the proclamation and hearing of the Word of God primary in our worship, celebrating the Sacraments as Christ's claiming and nurturing gifts of grace to us, and living out the belief that good order better serves our communal life and witness than does chaos.  This is a good formula for helping us keep things in good and clear focus in our congregations... in our Presbytery... in the Synod... at the General Assembly.



From the Stated Clerk/Communicator


A little over two weeks ago I traveled to Union Theological Seminary in New York City to participate in the Synod of the Northeast's "Summit on Race."  During the morning session, we had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by Dr. James Cone. Cone became well known - and quite controversial - with the publication in 1969 of his first book, Black Theology and Black Power.  Although he views that book as pivotal for him, he feels that his most recent book is the most important book he has written.  He believes that he has been working on this book all of his life, and it took him 20 drafts to get it to its final form.  His book, which participants in the Summit read beforehand, is entitled The Cross and The Lynching Tree.  His contention is that Christians, especially white Christians in this country, cannot look at Jesus hanging on the cross without seeing the parallels with all of the black Americans who were hung on trees from the Civil War well into the 20th century.


Cone believes that the true power of the Christian gospel is its unambiguous call of liberation from oppression.  Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with the re-crucified black body hanging from the lynching tree, there can be no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.  Just as the German people have had to work hard to come to grips with what happened during the rise of the Nazis, just as both black and white South Africans have had to work hard to come to grips with what happened during apartheid, so our country will never be healed from the legacy of slavery and lynchings until we work hard ourselves to acknowledge this terrible heritage and to address continuing vestiges of racism in this country.  (For example, there are more black people in prison in this country today than there were slaves in 1850!)


There were nearly 5,000 African American men, women, and children who were lynched since the time of the Civil War.  Many descendants of those people still wrestle with the implications of what happened to their family members.  And it is in the cross that so many African Americans have found hope and salvation.  After all, the cross inverts the dominant value system, demonstrating that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word.  The cross is God's defeat of power, of white power, of powerless love that snatches victory out of defeat.


We are in the middle of Lent.  The cross is our focus.  So what do we see when we see the cross?  It has been too easy for us to turn the cross into an ornate carving hanging in our sanctuaries.  It has been too easy for us to turn the cross into beautiful pieces of jewelry.  But if that's all we see, we miss the message and we sell short the power - and the challenge - of the cross of Jesus.  The cross stands tall in our world, shouting to all who would hear that the powers of this world are defeated... that the powers of domination are overcome by this symbol of weakness... that the powers of oppression are shattered by this symbol of suffering... that the power of sin in our lives is vanquished by the love that calls us, claims us, and envelopes us from the cross.


So what do you see when you look at the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord?


Lenten blessings, sisters and brothers,




Around the Presbytery


Boundaries Awareness Training for teaching elders

It is required that teaching elder members of presbyteries participate in ongoing training sessions about issues related to keeping appropriate boundaries, especially in pastoral relationships with both congregations and individuals.  The last Boundaries Awareness Workshop was in May 2012.  The next Workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 from 9:30-4:00 at the United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton, NY.  Watch for more details as the time draws closer.


Presbyterian Manor in Skaneateles

First Presbyterian Church Skaneateles owns and operates Presbyterian Manor as a Communal Living Home for Seniors.  Presbyterian manor is a lovely home on Genesee Street in the Village of Skaneateles within walking distance and bus service. All meals are served at a Family Dining room table, so residents have the pleasure of eating with other people gathered at the Table.  There are also Living rooms with couches and cable television.  Every resident has their own private suite, with Bedroom, private bath and private sitting room.  Presbyterian Manor is an independent living house for healthy seniors to share a home in low density.  Rates vary depending upon the size of the suite.


Retirement as a Spiritual Journey

Retired teaching elder, Dr. Ginny Smith, has become passionate about helping people live into retirement as a part of their faith journey.  She currently is leading an ongoing series of conversations held at First Presbyterian Church in Marcellus. These conversations offer reflections on questions such as:

  • What is retirement supposed to be?
  • What is the spiritual component to retirement and how do I recognize and relate to God in the midst of the changes and challenges of my life?

If you want to find out more about this, feel free to contact the Marcellus church at (315) 673-2201.


Presbytery's Records

Did you know?  The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia has on deposit the oldest records of our Presbytery and its history.  Located in the archives there are:

  • Middle Association (Presbytery) Records of Ministers and Churches on the Military Tract and its vicinity - 1 volume, from May 29, 1804 to September 5, 1810.  (Note: The Middle Association united with the Presbytery of Geneva to form the Presbytery of Cayuga on October 4, 1810).
  • Presbytery of Cayuga - 16 volumes of minutes, from 1811-1955.
  • Presbytery of Syracuse - 5 volumes of minutes, from 1887-1892, 1906-1909, 1927-1956.
  • Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse - 1 volume of minutes, from 1961-1968



Around the Synod of the Northeast


Regional Candidate for Moderator of General Assembly

Each time the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church meets, the commissioners elect a Moderator, who will serve for two years until the next Assembly.  The Moderator presides over the week-long meeting of the General Assembly, and then serves the Church as an ambassador of the denomination, traveling across the country and around the world on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  There currently are three announced candidates for Moderator.  One of them is in a neighboring presbytery within our Synod of the Northeast!  Genesee Valley Presbytery endorsed teaching elder John Wilkinson, pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, for moderator. He joins the other two candidates:  ruling elder Heath Rada from Western North Carolina Presbytery, and teaching elder Kelly Allen from Mission Presbytery in Texas where she serves as a pastor in San Antonio.


Early Ministry Institute

The Synod's Early Ministry Institute (EMI) is a three year program designed to encourage and support pastors in their first call to parish ministry and to assist them to gain skills in specific areas which are often omitted in the traditional seminary education.  The context of EMI is to center on God's call to us and to reflect how Christ is part of our ministry, to consider the ongoing life of the congregation, and to take a look at the church as it interacts with the surrounding world.  Offering EMI to our newly-ordained teaching elders is a real gift from the Synod to the Church.


Princeton Seminary Event

Sabbath Rest: A Time for Reflection and Renewal, is a  multi-day retreat (April 22-25) offered by Princeton Theological Seminary for those who have been in ministry 7-10 years.  The seminary is in partnership with the Institute for Life and Care, who is leading the sessions. Want to find more information?  Just visit



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


Resources for ruling elders

The General Assembly of our Church has a web page filled with wonderful resources and ideas regarding the important, vital ministry of ruling elders.  There are ongoing postings about issues that relate to serving as ruling elders.  The current posting is about ruling elders as leaders in worship.  Want to find out more.  Visit for great information, as well as links to other areas of interest to ruling elders.


General Assembly meeting information

The 221st meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be held at the COBO Center on the waterfront in downtown Detroit, Michigan.  This biennial meeting brings together commissioners and advisory delegates from all 172 presbyteries, as well as other delegates and observers from around the world.  We begin and end with worship, and in between there are celebrations, deliberations and inspirations for everyone.  If you want to find out more information about the Assembly, stroll on over to to look at the proposed docket, schedule of events, information about where to stay if you want to visit the Assembly, and how to register as a visitor.



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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