By Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

Dear Pastors and Congregations of the PSWR,

It has been 10 years since Susan and I began our work as your Co-Regional Ministers. We can’t begin to tell you how blessed and proud we are to be serving this amazing Region! Together with each of you we have accomplished so many wonderful things that they are to numerous to name. We are deeply grateful for the partnership in ministry entrusted to us that we share with you.

So as we enter this Advent-Christmas Season, we do so with not only gratitude in our hearts, but also with much excitement and anticipation for what God will do in and through this Region into the future. As we again prepare to receive the Christ child into our hearts and lives, giving thanks for this greatest of Gifts, we do so with holy expectations that will once more fill our lives and our world with unspeakable joy!

We are all to well aware of all the places of brokenness, despair, fear, hatred and violence that permeate our world today. We know that there are still “Herod’s” who threaten the weak and vulnerable in vain attempts to hold on to their perceived power. Yet as always, but especially in this Season we remember the song of God’s servant Mary, the mother of our Lord as she proclaimed God’s Sovereignty in the world:

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant..."

"He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty..."

This song of hope reminds us of who we are and whose we are no matter what our situation or circumstances or what might be happening in this fragmented world of ours. We know without reservation that God’s redeeming and reconciling love remains the ultimate power to save and transform us and this global community we are a part of.

So don’t lose heart nor be afraid, rather be as bold as Mary, as steadfast as Joseph, as wise as Sages, and as joyous as the Shepherds, “for unto you is born this day…a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”  

Let this poem by Ann Weems go with you this Advent so that we together can sing with hearts full of great joy this Christmas!

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

The Christmas spirit
Is that hope
which tenaciously clings
to the hearts of the faithful
and announces
in the face
of any Herod the world can produce
and all the inn doors slammed in our faces
and all the dark nights of our souls
that with God
all things still are possible,
that even now
unto us a Child is born!

May you be blessed this Holy Season!

Together on the journey,
Don and Susan

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Rev. Benjamin J. Barlow, PSWR Associate Regional Minister

Recently I was in conversation with one of our General Church leaders who caught me a bit off guard by saying, “The PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministry is being watched by the larger church. You all are really doing amazing things.” How exciting and scary all at once. This conversation got me thinking about what it is that people might not see about the PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministry by observing as a spectator.

Here are important points that our entire church should know about our regional youth and young adult ministries:

Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism

            For the first time in its 30 years of existence, in 2016-2017 the Youth Leadership Team (YLT) received and accepted applications from youth belonging to each of our organized constituent ministries (NAPAD, Hispanic Convencion, and African American Convocation). With 21 youth on the regional team and six adult mentors, our camp ministry season this year was one of the most diverse and culturally inclusive we’ve had the privilege of hosting. Each youth brought a different perspective to worship, prayer, and conversation. Our Regional Church is stronger because of this work!

            In 2016 we launched the Youth Immersion Ministry (YIM), an anti-racism/pro-reconciliation leadership training program for high school youth that give immersion opportunities in cultures other than their own while providing a safe and trusting community of peers and adults in which to process how to approach issues of division in the world. Four youth from each constituency (NAPAD, Convencion, Convocation, and Anglo-European Communities) are selected each year to participate with very little financial requirement from them.

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            We had 10 youth from the PSWR travel to South Korea this summer. To say we experienced culture shock would be an understatement, but it opened the door to honestly reflect on our cultural biases, prejudices, and assumptions. We did hard work that resulted in more compassionate, more aware, and more equipped young leaders to serve Christ in the world today. This has been made evident in the YIM and YLT end of the year project presentations which reflected the significant growth our regional youth have experienced in recent years.

            At General Assembly in July, the PSWR Youth Ministry was honored to receive the Bratkovich Award from the Disciples Peace Fellowship for our work, especially with the Youth Immersion Ministry and the Winter Youth Summit – UNITE in February of 2017. It was a surprising and exciting moment for our young people who attending General Assembly.

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A Stronger Voice and Presence of Young People

            Whether it is presenting at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration early this year, providing hospitality and staffing business   sessions at General Assembly, serving on a discussion panel at Regional Gathering, or forming an inclusive planning team for UNITE 2018, our young people are engaging their gifts in leadership and intentional development of our regional programming. If you were at Regional Gathering this month, you may have seen “God’s Gallery”: an artistic expression of the spiritual work our young people have been participating in this year (drawings, pottery, photos, and more). God’s Gallery was organized, curated, and staffed exclusively by the hands of youth and young adults in the PSWR. This was their idea and desire to demonstrate their voice in the larger church. It was beautiful and awesome to see.

            Our youth and young people have had the unique opportunity to meet with our new General Minister and President, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, twice this year. Once at UNITE where Terri preached the opening service and once at General Assembly where Terri met to discuss youth ministry exclusively with our youth and young adults. This has given the PSWR youth access to the General Church in ways we’ve not experienced in recent years. They shared their hopes with our GMP and our GMP listened to their concerns directly. Several of our young people are in ongoing conversations with Terri through social media and are working with her on a special project for UNITE 2018.

Resources, Grants, and Scholarships

            XPLOR Residents, Disciples Peace Fellowship Interns, Chapman University Students, HELM Fellows, Disciples Seminary Foundation Scholars, the Forum for Theological Exploration participants, a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation, and much more engage our young people in leadership development and service in ways that tap into their passions for God’s people. We are the PSWR, and our region offers accessible resources, as well as, a strong connection with the General Church. Many of our young people have and continue to be supported by these resources.

            This month I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Dee James Atwood, Director of Admissions and Assistant to the Dean of Students at Texas Christian University (TCU). Jim was enthusiastic about connecting our youth to Disciples scholarships available. He said, “I am committed to put Disciples dollars in the hands of young people from your region.” All participants in our Youth Leadership Team and Youth Immersion Ministry (as well as any young adults interested) are eligible to receive up to 50% tuition for their service to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Additionally, Bethany College in West Virginia offers the following to Disciples students who are active in church leadership, especially YLT and YIM:

·      Campbell-Stone Heritage Scholarship is $16,000, renewable every year, for a total of $64,000.

·      The Alexander Campbell Religious Leadership Award is $5,000, renewable every year, for a total of $20,000. This scholarship requires an essay, and two letters of recommendation documenting their leadership in the church. Recipients of the Alexander Campbell Religious Leadership Award become members of the Alexander Campbell Scholar program where they will be discipled and mentored.

·      $1,500 scholarship, renewable every year, for a total of $6,000 for students who are sons or daughters of DOC clergy. 

·      Outside of church scholarships, we offer merit scholarships between $4,000 - $18,000, the Presidential Scholarship - full-tuition, Honors College Scholarship $23,000, and Kalon Scholarship $19,500 for student leaders.

The first three scholarships listed are stackable for a total of $22,500. In addition, an alumni referral scholarship of $1,000 (renewable for $4,000) and a campus visit grant of $250 (renewable for ($1,000) can be added, totaling $23,750. The current tuition at Bethany is $27,250.

 

Global Service Projects

Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, South Korea, Israel-Palestine…the list continues to grow. Our regional youth and young adults are given the amazing opportunity to travel across the globe to experience expressions of the Church that challenge our understanding of God to help us grow in faith and serve God’s people. In 2018 we will be hosting the Immigration Immersion Project. Young people from all over the General Church will travel to the PSWR for a 10 day training in Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico. I am grateful for the support of Rev. Lori Tapia, Rev. Xose Escamilla, Rev. Sadie Cullumber, and many others who have pledged their support for this important opportunity.

We will also be taking a team of youth on an East Coast Work Tour next summer to Washington, D.C. and Virginia where we will participate in mission projects and visit historical sites. Further down the pike, we hope to accept the offer to travel to Australia to learn about reparations for the Aborigines and their culture, and to Kenya for a unique experience to discover God on safari.

Intentional Christian Leadership Formation

The PSWR Youth Ministry focuses on developing Christian leaders to serve in the world today. We believe that what we practice shapes our character. So, we are focusing on five areas of spiritual formation to compliment the work being done in the local church: Hospitality, Local Service, Global Missions, Mentorship, and Disciples Identity. Our hope is that by the end of a youth’s high school career they will be equipped with experiences of strong community, a broad awareness of the world around them, and a sense of the calling God is placing on their life to serve those in need. We believe that this is best achieved when Pastors, lay-leaders, and other local units are confident in the effectiveness of regional programming. We desire for churches to be eager to connect youth to regional resources so that they are stronger leaders in their home congregations and in present in the general church.

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Everyone is welcome!

We actively resist the temptation to settle into a small group of youth from a few congregations. We practice an open table where ALL young people are welcome to participate and bring their questions about how faith is applicable to their lives. This means that sometimes we will disagree on theology and practice… but instead of seeing this as something that puts us at odds, we celebrate the diversity as an opportunity to pull together the gifts of God’s people to make a bigger impact. We can do more when we do it together! Our goal is to engage each person’s gift and passion in service in a way that is authentic and effective in addressing real needs.

We are UNITED in our cause to serve God in the world today!

Our volunteers and youth meet at least six times a year to pray together, sing together, strategize together, process together, and discern what it is that God is calling us to do next. These sessions allow for young people to take risks, to make their visions for ministry a reality, and to be confident that they are supported by a loving and accountable community. We see what God is doing in our midst and we are excited to be a part of regional ministry for such a time as this!

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

There are many ways to get involved in PSWR Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Visit our websites by going to www.disciplespswr.org and clicking “Regional Ministries” to locate our youth and young adults pages. You will find applications for YLT and YIM available for download. You will find information about upcoming events and stories of recent blessings in ministry. Also, feel free to contact me if you have questions or ideas: bjbarlow@disciplespswr.org

We are currently accepting applications for YLT and YIM, and we are always praying for more young adults to step into leadership.

Thank you for the ongoing support and for the overwhelming affirmations that keep us trucking along.  

 

On the Journey Together,
Rev. Benjamin J. Barlow
PSWR Associate Regional Minister

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

There have been lots of things recently that have caused us to stop and pause and wonder ‘what’s going on?’ in our world. We have seen hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires that call up images of “last days." We have seen mass shootings, divisive politics, rampant fear and trouble in the White House. Perhaps this all seems more overwhelming because of the instant access these days to all the media but it does shake us.

A scripture that continues to ground us in these uncertain and troubling times is Psalm 46. In the first three verses we hear the palmist words:

God is our shelter and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not be afraid,
even if the earth is shaken
and the mountains fall
into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage,
and the hills are shaken by the violence.

As God’s beloved, we are those who know where our hope lies because we know who we are and whose we are. It is in this knowledge that we receive our courage to stand with those who are living in fear and bring hope; with those who are weak and offer strength; with those who are vulnerable and bring comfort; with those who are marginalized and forgotten and offer love and belonging.

The psalmist goes on to say that the Lord Almighty is with us and reminds us again in verse 7 that God is our refuge. Then the psalmist points us in a new direction in verse 8. Here we are invited to not be caught up in all the destructive and fear laden things around us but to look to what God IS doing in the world.

Come and see what the Lord has done.
See what amazing things God
has done on earth.

Reflecting on some of the ways God is working in our Region gives us hope and encouragement. Here are just a few of the amazing things God is doing through our Region:

·      Launching new congregations

·      Ordaining new pastors

·      Growing new leaders from our youth and young adults

·      Training and empowering leaders to address the sin of racism

·      Supporting and investing in leaders who walk with those caught in our broken immigration system

·      Resourcing and guiding congregations through transformation

Most recently we experienced God moving in and through our Region at our Gathering. With nearly 400 Disciples representing the wide diversity of this wonderful Region in attendance, there was a positive spirit and a beautiful fellowship as we worshipped, studied, and shared in community.

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In the midst of all that is swirling around our world today we took time to be reminded that God is our strength and our refuge. We paused to lift our voices in prayer and praise to our gracious and loving God. We turned our eyes away from all the chaos that can seem overwhelming to refocus on the One who brings order out of chaos. Yes, we again opened ourselves to God’s healing and hope-filled Spirit that we might be agents of Gods redemptive work in the world.

Dear friends, let us stand firm in our faith and in our love for one another and for all God’s beloved. Let us not lose hope or be trapped in fear but remind one another and ourselves that “The Lord Almighty is with us” and that God IS our refuge!

Together on the journey,
Don and Susan
Your Co-Regional Ministers

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Response teams are those who work in partnership with our Region’s Committee on Ministry and assist in a variety of ways when there is a concern for a Pastors fitness for ministry or an allegation of misconduct is brought to our Regional Ministers or Committee on Ministry’s attention.
 

The Role of Response Teams

Most Regions have established and trained response teams to collect information about a situation and then report that information to the Regional Minister(s) and/or the Committee on the Ministry for its deliberation. Some Regions also train pastoral care teams from which pastoral support persons can be drawn. These trained teams of persons supplement the work of the Region’s Committee on the Ministry by fulfilling specified roles without becoming involved in the deliberation and decision-making process of the Fitness Review.

The Committee on Ministry is again needing to recruit new Response Team Members and will be offering a Training for those wishing to help with Pastoral support or serve as Investigators who gather information. The Training will be held early in January 2018 (date TBA).

Please contact the Regional Church Office, 626-296-0385, if you are interested in being a part of a Response Team.

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Spencer Burke, Hatchery LA

The week of October 16th was a big one for church innovators in the PSWR. Two of our innovators emerged on the national scene, joining a team of multi-faith leaders for a deeper dive into what it means to be spiritual entrepreneurs. Over the past year, Hatchery LA – an initiative of PSWR – has developed relationships with other groups interested in advancing spiritual innovation, including a Jewish incubator called Glean and the Columbia University School of Business. Our dialogue came to life as we realized we had common interests and needs. We all believe that people have not “left” their faith, but have moved to other forms of expressing it. Together, we want to support those spiritual sojourners trying to find and experience God in the 21st century.

So, it was very existing for PSWR’s Al Lopez, Nora Jacobs, and Stephen Patten from Urban Mission of Pomona, and Jason and Janell Coker of First Christian Church Oceanside, to join with Hatchery for Columbia Business School’s “Ventures for All.” Several of us traveled to New York to kick off a 6-month course that will help our innovators hone their vision, and develop a plan to implement, communicate and sustain that vision. After the 2-day, onsite intensive at Columbia Business School, our teams have moved into an online learning phase with class instruction, coaching, and multi-faith cohorts.

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At the end of the 2-day gathering, Jack McGourty, the leader from Columbia University closed with the insight, “This CBS classroom is now a sacred space.” He understands there is a movement afoot. It is a movement of spiritual renewal, innovation, and change. It is reverberating across multiple faiths and I’m excited for PSWR to be a part of it. Stay tuned for future reports as we see how our churches work together to love and serve our generation and those to come.

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt