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Topics of interest to Clerks of Session, Session Moderators and others who are interested in Presbyterian local-church governance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Urgent call for volunteers from PDA

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance...


Hurricane Irene and its immediate aftereffects are what many people are seeing in the news. The most significant damage from Irene will be from flooding that is occurring inland, where the storm’s rains have caused rivers, streams and creeks to swell and drain onto land that in many areas was already saturated from a summer of heavy rainfall.

As with most flooding situations, assessments cannot be determined until the water recede; this is not expected for another couple of days. Because of this situation, PDA is not currently asking for volunteers to help with Hurricane Irene.

We have recently been reminded however that 3,000 homes are still in need of repair from Hurricane Ike that struck Texas in 2008. Volunteers are desperately needed to help families put Hurricane Ike behind them, repair their homes and restore their lives.

The Presbytery of New Covenant will be operating the Presbyterian Volunteer Village in Texas City, Texas, this fall, from September 12 through November 19, 2011.

To reserve space for your Mission Team, contact the PDA Call Center toll-free at (866) 732-6121 or register your interest online.

Contact Kendall Boyd, Ike Recovery Coordinator, with any questions or to discuss this ministry further by email or (713) 526-2585 x213

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
A One Great Hour of Sharing Ministry
(800) 728-7228, x5839

Saturday, August 27, 2011

PDA is Ready and Waiting to Help

One of the great things about being Presbyterian is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), our denomination's emergency-relief agency. Many of us are familiar with what PDA does overseas, but the agency responds here in the USA as well, to all manner of natural disasters. Whether at home or abroad, PDA's policy is to work closely with local presbyteries (or comparable councils overseas), to insure that assistance is delivered in the most efficient and faithful way possible.

PDA is one of the three major recipients of the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering, and often it is OGHS funds that are dispersed at the first news of a natural disaster.

I've recently been in touch with Bruce McGraw of Lawrenceville and Dick McClain of Allentown, Pennsylvania, volunteers who are part of a 3-person Hurricane Irene response team PDA has put together. Their team is ready to leap into action and work with New Jersey presbyteries as soon as Irene has passed us by. We'll all be hoping the need will be minimal, but it's good to know PDA is there in any event.

In recent years, the Rev. Bill Walker has been designated as Monmouth Presbytery's "Disaster Pastor," a volunteer role. Because Bill has been ill recently and isn't up to doing this sort of thing at the moment, I've asked his predecessor in the role, the Rev. Suzanne Schafer-Coates, to step in and be ready to assist. Suzanne will fill a support and liaison role to pastors of local churches. Once the storm is past, she and I intend to reach out and contact the pastors of the Presbytery, to make sure everything is OK with their congregations, and to see if there are ways Monmouth Presbytery and PDA may help.

We don't know what sort of electricity or phone service may be available immediately after the hurricane, of course - both for us and for people we may be calling - so we'll do the best we can with that.

One immediate request we have from our PDA team comes through one of the relief-agency networks they're part of. There's an immediate need for experienced volunteers to work in the various shelters that have been set up in Monmouth and Atlantic Counties. The following is from Bruce McGraw:

"I thought you might want to know that I received overnight an email from New Jersey VOAD (Volunteers Organized to Assist in Disasters) that the Office of Emergency Management in Monmouth and Atlantic Counties are looking for volunteers who have experience in shelters. The contact for both counties is President of NJVOAD:

Cathy McCann
Vice President of Operations
Community FoodBank of New Jersey
31 Evans Terminal - Hillside NJ 07205
Direct: 908-242-3960 - Cell: 908-884-0769 - Fax: 908-355-2341
Main number: 908-355-3663
E-mail: cmccann@njfoodbank.org - Website: www.njfoodbank.org

If you have folks with such experience, this is one opportunity to help. I assume these shelters will be run by the Red Cross."

Claire and I are sitting it out here in Point Pleasant Beach with some family members; our part of town is not subject to mandatory evacuation. Suzanne is battening down the hatches at her home in Hightstown. We hope and pray all of you are warm and safe, and will remain so. Remember, we're all in this together, and God is with us most of all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Learn Spanish in Cuba

Due to our current transitional status in the Presbytery office, with Barbara Wasylyk, our Presbytery's Administrative Assistant, slated to go in for hip-replacement surgery this week, I'm including news of this opportunity here, even though it's a bit beyond the scope of this blog. We'll catch up on getting it into a promotional flyer a little later.

I've learned from John Walter, an elder who's been the driving force behind Baltimore Presbytery's very active partnership with the Central Presbytery of the Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Cuba, that those two presbyteries are cooperating on a new Spanish-language immersion program. The first class will be for a week in January 2012, the exact dates not yet set, and will be limited to 10 people. Subsequent plans call for a two-week immersion opportunity that will take place at a later date, as well.

(Photo courtesy of John Walter)

The program is intended for those who already have some basic knowledge of Spanish, and would like to improve their conversational skills.

Since Monmouth Presbytery likewise has a mission partnership with the Central Presbytery of Cuba, our colleagues in Baltimore, with the encouragement of our Cuban friends, are inviting us to publicize this opportunity. They would be pleased if some members of Monmouth Presbytery's churches, and/or some of our ministers, would be interested in participating.

Under travel restrictions maintained by the U.S. government, Americans are permitted to travel to Cuba only for certain purposes, including educational exchanges and religious work. This trip would be permitted under Baltimore Presbytery's religious-purposes travel permit.

Full details, including costs and information about applying, may be found on the Baltimore Presbytery Cuba Partnership web page.

If you have questions, John says you may send him an email, or email Deb Milcarek of the Baltimore Presbytery staff.