Friday, December 29, 2006

Progress, going back, and discovering a new community crossroads

This week I had my second and third sessions of cardiac rehab at AVH. I thought they went well. Today they started increasing the exercises I do, and I think the work does help me feel stronger.

The week has been a heavy one. Most pastors will admit that the holiday season is especially busy. This year two families had deaths right before Christmas, and the funerals were scheduled for the week after Christmas. What a tough time to lose a loved one.

The funeral meals this week have been a continuation of the peril I have faced through this season from many gifts of food and candy. The staff of the rehab program asked me to check my fasting blood sugar each day, and I have been shocked by the high levels through the holiday. I've also checked my blood sugar after the workout, and have been very pleased to notice how exercise helps in bringing it down.

stained glass from Munhall House in the historical display at West Penn Hospital, PittsburghThursday I visited a parishioner at the West Penn Hospital. She was in a room on the same 'step-down' unit where I spent my last day in that hospital. Although I had been a patient in that hospital just seven weeks ago, no one mistook me for a patient yesterday.

Today after my session of rehab I had lunch in the hospital cafeteria and ran into a couple of people who had been at the Candlelight Christmas Eve Service. They each wanted to make a point of letting me know how much they appreciated the service.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve in Tarentum

Frank Lynn and Lee Lynn playing at Central Presbyterian Church, Tarentum, December 24, 2006The Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve at the Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum had a number of pieces of special music.

Elder Frank Lynn and Lee Lynn played medleys of Christmas music on drums and saxophone as the prelude and postlude. I heard a large number of approving comments by people who told me that a certain member of the church who had died a number of years ago would never have tolerated this music. The folks who were there liked it. I was one who appreciated it a lot.

Jessica Mriso sang a solo of "Gabriel's Greeting."

The Westminister Choir sang "Still, Still, Still" and "Christmas Gloria".

As promised, the service ended in plenty of time for the next Steelers' game.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Some blog articles I don't have the energy to develop

I've been making a lot of choices lately, being more selective about what I do in order to conserve my limited energy. My blogging has been a lower priority, but I keep noticing things that I tell myself I ought to blog about. I will probably not get around to developing any of these ideas more fully in the near future, so here they are, short, sweet, and undeveloped.

1. I started Cardiac Rehab. Yay! Friday I had my first class, and was introduced to the pieces of equipment I will use. It was a good experience of pretty steady monitored activity over an hour on three different pieces of exercise equipment, with warm-ups and cool-downs in between, all the time connected to a heart monitor via a transmitter. The staff gave me some literature to take home. One piece was a set of guidelines for cold weather exercise. The other was piece on survival tips for healthy holiday eating. This will be a very helpful program for me.

five playing cards2. They'll know we are Christians by ... our cards. One of the silliest comments made at the last meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery was in a nomination speech, when we were told that we should elect a candidate because he was a "card-carrying conservative."

Do some conservatives really need cards to prove their bona fides? And who issues those cards, after all?

3. Giant Candles. Through the season of Advent we have had giant candles on the wall of the fellowship hall. They have added a lot to the Advent observances in that space.


4. Laurels and Lances. Laurels to the Valley News Dispatch for its editorial "Shame, Tarentum" following up on a story in the Friday paper, "Council OKs hiring private eye." Spending $5,000 of the taxpayers' money to gather a pile of circumstantial evidence in order to make an uncertain case to a judge does not seem prudent. At least Councilman Tim Rapp tried to set a financial cap on the boondoggle.

Lances to the VND for perpetuating the impression that the hiring of a private investigator was the only significant decision to come out of the Monday meeting. I was not able to go to to that meeting, but I have reason to believe that the Council did actually do some things that were genuine borough business with implications for the coming year. Such as adopting a budget, for example.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Heart humor

T-shirt design of Metropolitan Cardiac AuthorityThis year I am the brunt of a number of 'heart' jokes in my family.

My little sister sent me a T-shirt with artwork for the Metropolitan Cardiac Authority. The design is a picture of a heart resembling the schema of a mass transit system. The shirt was from Threadless and is available here.

She also made a point of reminding me of the demotivating poster about Sacrifice.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Getting closer to starting cardiac rehab

Last week began with great expectations for starting cardiac rehabilitation at the Alle-Kiski Medical Center. I even went for the interview for the program The interview was a very positive experience. The nurse in the program helped me to appreciate the fact that it had been just a bit more than a month after my myocardial infarction, and that I am only at the beginning of the recovery process.

I was expecting to start the actual work of cardiac rehab on Friday. Then I learned that I needed to see my cardiologist before I could start and I was not scheduled to see him until today.

Today I saw my cardiologist, who did clear me for starting cardiac rehab. I'll start this Friday, and will go three days a week. The doctor also prescribed a change in the beta blocker I have been taking; the new beta blocker should help with my feelings of tiredness and lack of energy.

Oh, on the way to my appointment I even spotted Maxwell on Freeport Road near the Tarentum/Brackenridge line. Unfortunately, I was driving and did not stop to take a picture as proof.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Advent gets busy

My best efforts to manage my energy keep hitting their limits.

Because I knew that last week was going to be a heavy week I arranged for a guest preacher for Sunday. Rebecca Cartus, a candidate for ministry under care of Pittsburgh Presbytery, came to Central and preached a great sermon on "Lighting Up the World."

That evening we had our Children's Christmas Program with a Tureen Dinner. The program included skits the children had done for Grand Central Station this fall, songs the children had learned, and then re-enactments of scenes from the nativity story. At the end of the program everyone sang Christmas songs until Santa Claus appeared and had a talk with each of the children.

By the end of the evening I was exhausted. This week I am to start Cardiac Rehab. I hope that helps me do a better job of planning what I can and should do.

Here are some of the pictures from the Christmas Program.

The Annunciation

The angel appears to Joseph in a dream

An earthly king in fine robes

Shepherds come to see the newborn king

Magi bring gifts

Santa Claus arrives

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting at Elfinwild

Stained glass window at rear of Elfinwild Presbyterian Church, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never ends"Pittsburgh Presbytery held a long meeting at the Elfinwild Presbyterian Church on Thursday, December 7, 2006. There were 146 ministers and 132 elders representing 75 churches present. We dealt with a lot of very important relational issues, very important at a time when there are many issues on which we differ.

One of the most important and difficult things we did came at the end of the meeting when Pastor Jim Mead read to us the suicide letter that Rev. Brent Dugan had left for the presbytery. (Another report of the reading of this letter can be found here.) Our brother in Christ had wanted us to hear this explanation of his death and the events that led up to it, and it was important for us to spend time together hearing what he wrote to us. Pastor Jim Mead commented on pastoral isolation, saying that studies have shown that most male pastors have either no close friends or only one (aside from a spouse).

Stained glass window at the Elfinwild Presbyterian Church, "That it was from the hand of God"We spent time together discussing issues of property, and how we would handle them if a church wished to leave the PCUSA. This was another time of "speaking out of silence" after we had shared our thoughts with one or two strangers.

We elected elder David Green as our moderator and elder Kears Pollock as our senior vice moderator. Both elections had been contested by candidates nominated from the floor. Neither of the alternate candidates had participated in the nomination process by the nominating committee, and they explained that they had not even considered running while that process was underway, but felt called to offer themselves recently so that they could be voices of unity and reconciliation when or if a congregation wants to leave the PCUSA.

Stained glass window at Elfinwild Presbyterian Church, "And a little child shall lead them. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain."We elected the Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz as the Associate Pastor to Presbytery for Medium-sized churches. He will leave his position as pastor at the Hampton Presbyterian Church to serve on the Presbytery staff.

We approved the call of the John McMillan Presbyterian Church for Louise Rogers as associate pastor; Rogers is a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church and will be ordained for this position. Brian Wallace will be ordained to serve as a temporary supply at the Hampton Presbyterian Church.

We voted to receive four inquirers as candidates: Betty Angelini (member of Hampton Presbyterian Church and executive director of Crestfield Camp and Conference Center), William Branning (member of First Presbyterian Church), James W. Kirk (a member of the Presbyterian Church of Plum Creek), and Jeffrey Eddings, a member of Friendship Community Presbyterian Church).

We adopted the 2007 budget, and set the presbytery portion of the per capita apportionment at $13.80, for a total per capita of $21.59.

We handled a couple items of judicial business. The stated clerk read the decision of the Presbytery's Permanent Judicial Commission in the case of PCUSA v. the Rev. Janet L. Edwards, Accused. That case was dismissed at trial because the charges were not timely filed. The Moderator read a letter from the Prosecuting Committee explaining how this occurred. It was felt necessary to read this explanation because of groundless speculation that the outcome had been arranged.

Stained glass window at Elfinwild Presbyterian Church, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."The stated clerk informed the presbytery that a remedial complaint had been filed with the Synod of the Trinity against the presbytery's action at its last meeting to adopt a policy on ordination standards. The synod's permanent judicial commission has granted a stay of enforcement of that policy until the case has been heard. The presbytery's moderator has appointed a committee of counsel to defend the presbytery in this case.

Before the meeting there had been a luncheon gathering of pastors and commissioners from small membership churches. At this luncheon we were informed that the presbytery's Administrative Commission for Transformation wanted to encourage partnerships between small membership churches and other congregations. There was a recognition that small membership churches are often in communities of need, where they are doing kingdom work without necessarily having the resources available to do all that is needed. The presbytery gave a gift to the attendees that included a copy of The Present Future by Reggie McNeal.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Time to hang up the golf clubs

photo of golf clubs hanging on a parking sign in Lower Burrell, PA on a snowy dayIt is December 7 and time for Pennsylvanians to hang up their golf clubs for the winter, but I don't recommend doing it outside.

The snow was flying today, and as I made my way to the parking lot I came across this unusual sight: a bag of golf clubs hanging on a tenant parking sign.

Maybe someone hung them there for convenience and then forgot they had done so. Maybe someone found the clubs left on the ground and hung them on the sign to make them more visible to the owner. Who knows?

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving at Central 2006

Community Thanksgiving dinner at Central Presbyterian Church, TarentumCentral Presbyterian Church served about 120 Thanksgiving meals at our Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.

This year I was not able to help with the meal, but I did bring my appetite and was not disappointed.

Once again, there was a large number of volunteers, some church members and many outside volunteers.

The VND had a nice article Friday, "Blessings of Thanksgiving", featuring the dinners at the Arnold United Methodist Church and Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum. The Arnold church has been holding a community Thanksgiving dinner for the last 17 years.

It was gratifying to receive a "laurel" from the VND in an editoral on November 17. It was also nice to meet some new friends around the Thanksgiving tables this year.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heart attack and recovery

The recent break in posts to this blog was due to a heart attack I had last week.

I presented myself at the Emergency Department of the Alle-Kiski Medical Center around midnight, Tuesday night, November 7 with chest pain. They identified my problem as a heart attack, and began treatment while arranging for me to have a room at the West Penn Hospital. I arrived at West Penn a little after 2 AM on Wednesday, and was scheduled for a heart catheterization that afternoon. In the cath lab they cleared the blocked artery and installed a stent. I was discharged late in the afternoon on Saturday, November 11, and have been resting and recovering.

People keep asking me how I am feeling. What is wierd about this experience is that I feel fine; but I tire very quickly when I start into what had always been routine tasks. So I am learning to slow down, and to think of the things I need or want to do in much smaller pieces.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The duopoly strikes again

While I was out and about today I had a conversation with an acquaintance who told me that last year she had tried to vote at the First Ward polling place in Tarentum. She was a registered voter who had registered as an independent, not selecting a party. She said that last year the people working the poll told her that she could not vote because she was neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

I was incredulous. I asked her if she was positive that she had not tried to vote in a primary. She was sure it was the November election when they had turned her away.

I encouraged her to go vote today, and to insist on her right to vote if people tried to tell her she could not.

Would you believe it, the workers at First Ward actually tried the same scam on her this year! But this time the constable came to ensure that she was permitted to vote.

I am relieved that that there was a way for law enforcement to step in and protect her right. But I am shocked to think that it was even necessary for her to have to call on assistance to be able to vote.

My mind is not made up on whether the new electronic voting machines are a boon or a bane. As long as petty local tyrants can deter registered voters from participating in the democratic process we have a long way to go to improve how we elect.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

How much chicken is there in the Lamb Vindaloo?

It was obviously a word-processing typo. The description in the menu for the Lamb Vindaloo was identical to the description for the Chicken Vindaloo: "Mildly spiced chicken ... in a hot sauce"

I had followed the recommendation of the VND's Lunch Bunch who recently reviewed the new Zaiaka Indian Restaurant.

So when the typo in the menu was pointed out to me I had to ask the waitress, "How much chicken is there in the Lamb Vindaloo?"

She struggled for a moment with how to answer the question, then gesturing with her fingers explained that it was cut into pieces about so big and that there were maybe eight of them in a serving.

I asked again, "How much CHICKEN is there really in the LAMB Vindaloo?"

She finally figured out what I was asking and acknowledged that the chicken was in the chicken vindaloo.

The Lamb Vindaloo was rather spicy, as promised. and it was completely free of free-range chicken.

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Vote positively

Election day is on the horizon. It is a privilege and a responsibility to vote for the best person for each position to be elected.

Some are dismayed at the choices presented to them. The choices seem particularly limited here in Pennsylvania, where the imagined risk of "ballot clutter" justifies rules that require third parties to obtain over 67,070 signatures on statewide nominating petitions, while the Republican and Democratic parties need only 2,000 signatures. When you face an uncluttered ballot are your choices really as limited as they seem? Not at all.

In yesterday's Valley News Dispatch, columnist Dimitri Vassilaros advocated voting for "None of the above" when you don't like the choices shown to you. I agree with his opinion that "Voting for evil does not honor the fallen. A principled vote does."

But voting a write-in ballot is a far more positive action than simply disapproving of the two lead choices. There are other choices if you want them. You may need to do some research to find out who they are, but they are there.

Only be sure you know the name of your write-in candicate before you get to the poll. (see this)

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tarentum Skatepark: the cure for Wolfe Park

Wolfe Park, Tarentum, PA on November 4, 2006At some time during the past week the concrete pad for the Tarentum skateboard park was poured.

Underneath all those tarps and boards, the concrete is curing. The curing process should take about 30 days.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A positive development on the library donation front

I was pleased to read this week that Ron Misejka has reconsidered his vote against the donation from the Highlands School District to the Allegheny Valley Community Library.

Update 10:15 PM: And now today he has posted an excellent summary of the way the collaboration with the library has expanded the educational possibilities for the students of the school district. Read it!

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But I am positive God knows how to spell

Church sign in Tarentum (with church name blocked), October 31, 2006These one-line notes purportedly from God are a cute advertising tool. And I am sure that many of them provoke thought.

But when one is putting words in the mouth of the Almighty, shouldn't one take care not to make God look like a bad speller?

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Things that go bump in Tarentum: the 2006 Grandview Halloween Parade

Scary person in the 2006 Grandview Elementary School Hallowe'en ParadeFrom ghoulies and ghosties
and long-leggedy beasties

Scary kids in the 2006 Grandview Elementary School Hallowe'en Parade
and things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

The 2006 Grandview Elementary School Hallowe'en parade took place today at 9:45 AM.

Heading up the parade was an impressive marching band in Hallowe'en garb.




Following the marching band were each of the classes in the elementary school. Spongebob Squarepants was there to affirm the diversity of the Grandview student body. And what a diverse group they were!

Spongebob Squarepants accompanies some of the Grandview Halloween parade marchers

2006 Grandview Elementary School Halloween Parade

2006 Grandview Elementary School Halloween Parade

scary mask in the 2006 Grandview Elementary School Halloween Parade

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Like a tree planted by streams of water

Tree mural in the lobby of the Alle-Kiski Medical CenterWhen I was visiting at the Alle-Kiski Medical Center last Thursday I noticed a new mural in the main lobby opposite the elevators.What a peaceful vision to have while waiting for an elevator, or to discover when the elevator doors open on the ground floor!

Various conversations in the past week have reminded me how threatening it is for some family members to visit in the hospital and see a loved one being unwell.

This artwork is a special ministry of caring for the people who work in the hospital and for those who come and go in the course of a day.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Tarentum skatepark: preparations underway

Skatepark construction, Tarentum, October 25, 2006They are now in the process of putting down a smooth bed of gravel in the area that was cleared for the Tarentum Skatepark. On Wednesday there was a worker moving and smoothing the gravel.

Skatepark construction, Tarentum, October 26, 2006On Thursday it did not look as if there had been much further progress. But the pouring of concrete comes soon.

HT: Blank Skate, who reminds us that when they pour the concrete it will need to cure for 30 days before the equipment is installed.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Let's walk together

AVAC 2006 Festival of Faith at the Bull Creek Presbyterian ChurchThere was a good crowd at the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches' Festival of Faith last night at Bull Creek Presbyterian Church.

The service included special music from the choirs, praise teams, and bands of four area churches: Bull Creek Presbyterian Church, Trinity United Christian Church, Center United Methodist Church, and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Dr. W. James Legge, President of the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches told about the sixteen programs that AVAC maintains to make a difference in the Valley. The offering at the service was to support the work of AVAC.

Karen Snair, Executive Director of AVAC, introduced the preacher of the evening, the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe, pastor of the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Monroe's sermon "And the Walls Come Tumbling Down" was based on Ephesians 2:11-21. Speaking out of his experience of racial segregation, Dr. Monroe acknowledged the significance of changes in our society, while pointing to divisions that persist, such as continued divisions of gender, class, and socio-economic status. The tearing down of those walls will be God's work in which we will participate. "Let's walk together" was his closing exhortation.

Following the service there was a time of fellowship and refreshments downstairs. The seats at tables were quickly filled and it was standing room only for those of us who arrived in the fellowship hall last.

While I was finding a place to stand, I walked past a couple of the participants who were talking about the sermon. One of them was saying that he liked a lot of what Dr. Monroe had to say, but that one of the controversial areas of division that he had mentioned "would destroy the church."

The discriminatory divisions that some experience as utterly oppressive are experienced by others as the utterly necessary last stand against the forces of evil and chaos.

Overhearing that snippet of conversation, that continuation of the sermon, has left me probing myself to see where I might be doubting God's power.

I'm glad I came across this article on odyssey that featured a picture of a church sign that says "In a divided society only the Church can model unity."

Update 10-24-06: Added links.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rev. Johnnie Monroe to preach for AVAC

The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches will hold its Annual Festival of Faith at 7:00 PM, Sunday, October 22, 2006 at the Bull Creek Presbyterian Church, 224 Tarentum-Culmerville Road, Tarentum (in the West Deer Township).

The guest speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe, Pastor of the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

Music will be provided by area church choirs and bands.

The theme will be "We Are One In the Spirit."

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A shield made at Central Presbyterian Church's "Grand Central Station"Last night at "Grand Central Station" (Central Presbyterian Church's mid-week program for elementary school age children) the young people learned about trusting in God.

They ended up making shields that had a reminder to trust God showing on one side. On the other side they had drawn pictures of things that scare them.

We probably all keep our cards close to our vest so that others don't see the things that raise our anxiety. I was moved when some of the children shared with me what they had drawn on the backs of their shields.

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The per capita conundrum: Why presbyteries feel the pinch

Last week a Presbyterian News Service story "Uncollectible GA per capita creeps up" drew attention to a problem that has been developing over some years. For my non-Presbyterian readers, the per capita apportionment is one of the ways governing bodies of the PCUSA fund a portion of their operating budgets. The precise understanding of the purpose of the per capita apportionment varies among governing bodies, but it is generally understood to cover ecclesiastical expense, i.e. those administrative costs associated with the church's governance. The presbyteries, synods, and the General Assembly identify their expenses that are to be covered by per capita for the coming year, and then divide it by the total nuber of active members of Presbyterian churches within their jurisdiction at the end of the previous year, to come up with the amount to be requested from the churches per active member. It is a fair system of apportioning certain basic costs of being a church.

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) all giving is voluntary, and the gifts are received gratefully. But a number of factors can interfere with raising the full amount of per capita that the governing bodies need. The news story cited above discusses some of those factors.

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) says in G-9.0404d.:
Each governing body above the session shall prepare a budget annually for its operating expenses, including administrative personnel, and may fund it with a per capita apportionment among the particular churches within its bounds. The presbyteries shall be responsible for raising their own per capita funds, and for raising and timely transmission of per capita funds to their respective synods and to the General Assembly. The presbyteries may direct per capita apportionments to the sessions of the churches within their bounds.
Note that although the apportionment is among the particular churches, the presbyteries have the constitutional duty to raise the per capita. And there is the rub.

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) all giving is voluntary. The presbyteries do not compel, and have no authority to compel, the session of a particular church to send in every last cent of the per capita due from that church (see the decision of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission in Minihan et al. v. the Presbytery of Scioto Valley).

When congregations do not send in their full per capita, whether because of a lack of funds or an intentional choice, the presbyteries are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they have a constitutional provision that creates a duty to the higher governing bodies, and on the other hand they depend on cooperation from the local churches to be able to fullfill that duty.

Some commentators (here or here) have attributed the shortfall to intentional withholding of per capita by local churches. Based on my experience in the PCUSA I would suggest that most of the shortfall is likely due to financial problems in churches.

There was a report on past due per capita at the most recent meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery. According to that report, only one congregation with a past due amount through 2005 is withholding GA per capita, and only one is witholding the presbytery portion of per capita. According to the news story one of the two synods where the withholding phenomenon is concentrated is the Synod of the Trinity, of which Pittsburgh Presbytery is a part.

The fact is that sometimes a congregation gets to the end of the year able to pay most of its bills but falls short on being able to send in the full amount of per capita. Presbyteries routinely are patient with churches in such situations, and often the congregations are able to solve the problem within the early part of the new year. When the congregations do not do so, the problem accumulates, affecting funding decisions in subsequent years.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tarentum Borough Council: honors given to police and mayor

Honors were given out at the Tarentum Borough Council meeting last night.

Tarentum Police Chief presents Ryan Hanford and Robert Lang to receive award.Tim Cornuet, Tarentum's Emergency Management Coordinator, was present to give awards for heroism to Ryan Hanford and Robert Lang, who had risked their lives to rescue residents of Rachel Carson Hall in a fire on April 30, 2006. Without the protective gear used by firefighters these police officers made repeated trips into thick smoke on the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of the building to rescue residents.

They were given framed certificates that commended their actions, and lapel pins that they are to wear on their uniforms. There was applause through the room when the awards were given.

Tarentum Mayor James E. WolfeThe Council honored Mayor James E. Wolfe by passing a resolution to name the new skatepark after him. The vote was taken in a spirit of love and humor. Councilman Joe Davidek said, "I'm glad we named the park after him because he was dead set against it."

From comments in the meeting it appears that the mayor is at least suspending judgment on whether the skateboard park will turn out to be the grave disaster he had opposed so strongly.

Councilwoman Sopcak informed the Council that some local skaters had told her they were disappointed that they were not included in the process of naming the skatepark.

There was applause through the room when the Council voted to give Mayor Wolfe's name to the skatepark.

In other business that evening the Council appointed Eric Carter, the Mayor's grandson and an active member of the Recreation Board, to fill the vacant Second Ward seat. The vote was a 3-3 tie, which the Mayor broke by casting the deciding vote. After the election Mr. Carter was duly sworn in.

Fred Killingsworth gave a presentation to the Council from TekCollect, a collection service that was proposing to work with the borough's tax office.

The Council passed a motion to make Borough employees and elected officials respnsible for any charges incurred by the borough for missed conferences, meetings, etc.

The Council approved a pole attachment agreement with Nick Chevrolet for a data line to connect buildings on opposite ends of West Seventh Ave.

The Council voted to send a letter to Allegheny County 911 to ask for acceptance into the County 911 Center. Tarentum's dispatch is losing the participation of the other nearby municipalities, so Tarentum's dispatch center will close. Residents should observe no change in how their calls for emergency assistance are handled, whether they call 911 or the old number for Tarentum Dispatch.

A motion to permit Police Chief Vakulick to be absent from Council meetings failed after extensive debate.

The Council appointed Tom Benecki as its agent between Tarentum Borough and the Department of Community & Economic Development. The Council also passed a resolution regarding Slums and Blight.

The Council approved Ordinance 06-07 concerning standards for conversion of single family to two family dwellings.

The traffic island at W. Sixth and Grantham Street will be removed at no cost to the borough.

The Council approved the Gatto Block Party on July 14-15, 2007.

There were citizen comments at the conclusion of the meeting. One citizen was concerned about the removal of a number of trees in Tarentum, particularly along 6th Avenue. Borough manager William Rossey explained that a thin and easily-removed piece of concrete was poured over the holes for safety while the Borough researches what type of tree would be best for those locations.

The Holiday Parade is going to include the Shriners with their little cars.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Tarentum Skatepark: Now the ground is really broken

Topsoil is being removed for the site of the Tarentum skateparkLess than a week after the groundbreaking ceremony, a bigger shovel is at work clearing the topsoil from the site for the Tarentum skatepark.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: F. Awards and honors

"If one member is honored, all rejoice together with it"
- 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NRSV)

The afternoon sun shining through the sole stained glass window at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church made this image during the Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting.During the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church, a number of awards were presented.

The Presbytery celebrated the fact the partnerships that had been formed between and among many of the churches. Some congregations had established multiple partnerships with others, and the partnerships did not all fit the same pattern. Representatives of the churches with partnerships were called forward, and given a gift to recognize the importance of their partnerships.

While this celebration was going on, a fiery cross appeared on the projection screen for the powerpoint show for the meeting. I think that this image was caused by the afternoon sun coming through the only stained glass window in the church. The image came and went as clouds passed through the sky, and the image's location also changed over time.

The Peacemaking Ministries Network of the Synod of the Trinity gave one of the four 2006 Andrew E. Murray Peacemaking Awards to the Field Learning Program of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The Field Learning Program gives special attention to refugee children and youth making the transition to new lives in Pittsburgh.

It was also announced that the Rev. Rachel Stahle of the Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church has written an Advent devotional that will be available for download on the Presbytery website.

Congratulations to all!

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: E. Reflective listening about property

The the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church we had another experience of reflective listening. (At the previous meeting we had done something like this to discuss issues about the Peace, Unity, and Purity report.) At this meeting we talked about issues of church property.

Pastor Jim Mead acknowledged that elsewhere in the denomination there were churches seeking to leave. He said that in Pittsburgh Presbytery there were no congregations working on leaving, and that in fact there were congregations unsettled by the PUP report who were working on maintaining their participation in the PCUSA.

When we arrived at the meeting one of the papers on the table was a guide for our reflective listening exercise. It asked three things:
In the event Pittsburgh Presbytery needs to make decisions about church property, some things I pray we keep in mind are:
- these things about mission:
- these things about our relationships in the presbytery:
- these things about presbytery's fiduciary responsibilities for property in support of its mission:

In small groups of three we shared our answers to these questions, then Pastor Mead gave us the opportunity to share with the whole Presbytery something we had heard (i.e., not something that we had said) that we felt the whole Presbytery should hear. It seemed to me that there were not as many people who stood to share what they had heard as had spoken at the last meeting. One statement that was shared with the whole Presbytery that has stuck with me was: "Jesus changed the world and owned no real estate."

There will be another Discernment Gathering at the Presbytery Center on November 14 at 7 PM.

In other business affecting church property, the Council reported that it has referred an overture on per capita for study to its Finance Committee. The proposal is one that would amend the Presbytery Manual so that the Presbytery would forward to General Assembly and Synod only so much of the per capita as the Presbytery receives from its congregations. Although the Council did not report the specific language of the overture, the proposal as described would be an irregularity. The fact that other presbyteries are already failing to follow the Book of Order would not make it any less illegal for Pittsburgh Presbytery.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A windy fall day

A windy fall day in Natrona Heights, PAThe leaves are just starting to turn on the oak trees near the Alle-Kiski Medical Center in Natrona Heights.

The mix of reds with bright green on a windy day caught my attention.

Changes are in the air. One friend I visited is out of bed and going home from the hospital today. Another friend may be moving somewhere else soon.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: D. Vocational matters

At every presbytery meeting we participate in the process of God's call to individuals to serve in particular ways, and the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church was no exception.

The presbytery received inquirer Kevin Long of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church as a candidate for the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Kevin explained his motivations for seeking the ministry through a poem he had written. This was the first time I have ever heard extended verse used in this kind of statement before a presbytery.

The Presbytery also received inquirer B.J. Woodworth of the Bellefield Presbyterian Church as a candidate for the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Woodworth is a local blogger whose blog "What's Your Wood Worth?" I have been following for about a year. He also is a Certified Lay Pastor, serving as the pastor of The Open Door, an emergent faith community in Pittsburgh's East End.

Candidate Elizabeth Broschart of the Dormont Presbyterian Church was examined and approved for ordination so that she could accept the approved call of the Gladden Presbyterian Church as designated pastor.

The Presbytery approved calls for the Rev. Jeri-Lynn Bouterse as the pastor of the Valley Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Carmen Cox Harwell as designated pastor of the Mt. Hope Community Presbyterian Church.

The Presbytery granted the Rev. James K. Smith, Sr. Honorable retirement. His son Robert Smith, who is the Stated Clerk of Redstone Presbytery and had recently been the associate Stated Clerk of Pittsburgh Presbytery, was present to participate in the service of recognition.

In addition to the vocational matters involving people's careers, God was at work in this meeting calling people into various forms of volunteer service on presbytery committees and boards. The Presbytery placed Elder David Henderson on the board of the Presbyterian Foundation in the class of 2007, and the Rev. Eugene Blackwell on the Committee on Ministry in the class of 2007.

This was the meeting at which the Nominating Committee presented its nominees for the Presbytery Moderator and Senior Vice-Moderator. The elections will happen at the December presbytery meeting.

Elder David Green of the Bower Hill Community Church was the committee's nominee as Moderator. In the short time that I have been in this presbytery I have observed Elder Green reminding the presbytery of the ways we have agreed to handle certain issues under the policies in the Presbytery Manual. I've become quite appreciative of his willingness to help to keep us on track. Yesterday's meeting was the first time that we introduced ourselves to each other. I asked him whether he knew the manual so well because he had helped write it. His humble response was that he had not been a part of the writing but that he had had to become very familiar with it when he chaired the presbytery's nominating committee for a number of years.

There was a nomination from the floor for the position of Moderator: The Rev. Paul Roberts, pastor of the Eastminster Presbyterian Church. Rev. Roberts has been leading the Eastminster church in an exciting, cross-cultural ministry.

The committee's nominee for Senior Vice-Moderator was Elder Kears Pollock (no relation) of the Parkwood Presbyterian Church. I have had the opportunity to get to know Kears through service on a Presbytery commission, and have appreciated the wisdom he brings to various matters. Yesterday I mentioned to Kears that I saw he was to be nominated. He told me that the Nominating Committee had approached him, and that he had not sought out the nomination, but had responded affirmatively to the process when he was asked to serve the Presbytery in this way.

There was a nomination from the floor for the Senior Vice-Moderator position: The Rev. Dr. Lowell Meek of the Round Hill Church. I have not met Dr. Meek, but the impression I have gleaned over the internet is that the Round Hill Church is perceived as a friendly church.

I am not sure what to make of these challenge nominations from the floor, but I think it is a good thing that people are ready to offer their gifts in service to Christ's Church through Pittsburgh Presbytery.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: C: Ordination overture

During the meeting Pittsburgh Presbytery on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church the presbytery approved the overture on ordination standards that had been introduced at the previous meeting. The vote was 148-105.

It is unclear what the effect of this resolution will be, but the intention seems to be to make "fidelity within the covenant of marriage or chastity in singleness" an essential tenet of the Reformed faith so that the ordination of a person out of compliance would not even be considered.

The debate at this meeting was limited in time and did not get far beyond procedural issues. When the time limit of 20 minutes was reached, an attempt to extend debate for 30 minutes failed. It might have stood a better chance if the requested extension had been for 20 minutes or less.

One attempt to amend the overture was ruled out of order. At the previous meeting, one of the critics of the overture had pointed out that the overture only addresses the ordination of ministers of Word and Sacrament, and does not address elders and deacons. The obvious reason for this limitation is that a presbytery has no jurisdiction over elders and deacons, who are ordained by the sessions of the congregations. The proposed amendment at yesterday's meeting would have broadened the overture to address elders and deacons. When the Stated Clerk pointed out that the proposed amendment would make the resulting overture contrary to the constitution, the Moderator ruled the proposed amendment out of order.

When the debate was closed, a request was made that the presbytery pray before voting and use ballots to vote. The Stated Clerk produced pre-printed ballots that showed the resolving clauses of the overture. I was a bit dismayed that although the Presbytery had agreed to pray before voting, there were people already folding their ballots and passing them in while ballots were still being distributed in the back, and before the prayer. Some people had their minds made up.

The Stated Clerk announced during the meeting that there were two protests filed against the action. Protests are statements that a member believes the action to have been irregular. At the conclusion of the meeting there was a crowd of ministers and elders around the Clerk's table reading and subscribing to the protests.

Screenshot from taken on October 6, 2006 at 7:28 AM EDT, click to view larger versionThe vote yesterday fulfilled the apparent prophecy made on the website of the Presbyterian Layman, which had been announcing as recently as October 6 that Pittsburgh Presbytery had already approved the overture. I've seen newspapers make accurate predictions before, but claiming that the events have already occurred seems to bend a journalistic rule somewhere.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg

Elements for Holy Communion at Hamilton Presbyterian Church, PittsburghWhen Pittsburgh Presbytery met on October 12 at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church we worshiped God in a service of Holy Communion.

During the service we sang two great hymns: "Baptized in Water" and "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus."

The sermon was preached by Professor Ben Freudenburg, the Director of the Family Life Program at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Professor Freudenburg is leading a number of events for Pittsburgh Presbytery through this weekend.

Professor Freudenburg spoke about a new reformation that America and the world need. He sees a need for a paradigm shift to home centered church supported ministry. From his text, Joshua 24:14-18, he drew the importance of commitments that are based in the household where children are raised. He also pointed to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to emphasize the importance of children being in homes where they are constantly told the stories and values of the Christian community.

The paradigm shift he talks about is an important and needed one. There is a trap in the way the church has been doing Christian education in that faith education has been seen too much as something for which children are sent to the church to get. Freudenburg offered statistics to show that a home where the message is being conveyed continually is the best factor in ensuring that young people "stick with Jesus" in Freudenburg's words.

Professor Freudenburg will lead an event today at the Presbytery office from 9:00 to 1:30 on "Training in the Family Friendly Church". Tomorrow (Saturday) he will lead in the Teacher Training Workshop at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary from 9:00 to 3:00.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pittsburgh Presbytery at Hamilton: A. Welcome

Hamilton Presbyterian Church, PittsburghPittsburgh Presbytery met at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church on October 12. There were 137 minister and 133 elders representing a total of 81 churches. There were also 23 visitors present.

I was one of the many who would "have to cross a river or two" as Pastor Jim Mead reminded us all in his cover letter for the Presbytery papers. My journey took me only about 45 minutes to travel just under 30 miles in excellent traffic. The directions provided by the host church were great.

Welcoming sign at the Hamilton Presbyterian ChurchWhen I met new people during the meeting and they asked me where I came from, I got a lot of blank stares when I named Tarentum.

Nevertheless, we all received a warm welcome upon arrival at the church. Volunteers were out guiding us to appropriate places to park, and welcoming and directing us as we came into the building.

This meeting would be the one when we would receive communion and also remember the ministers and elders who had died in the past year. At the very beginning of the meeting Moderator Carol Divens Roth announced the death Tuesday of elder Marianne Wolfe, who had been the Stated Clerk of Pittsburgh Presbytery from 1977 to 1993. During her lifetime she had written books and resources and had provided training for a generation of clerks of session and stated clerks of governing bodies. It had been my privilege a number of years ago to take a class in parliamentary procedure from her. Her memorial service will be Saturday in the community building at Sherman Oaks in Cranberry.

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My other articles about this meeting: A. Welcome B. Worship with Ben Freudenburg C: Ordination overture D. Vocational matters E. Reflective listening about property F. Awards and honors

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tarentum breaks ground on new skatepark

Groundbreaking for Tarentum SkateparkToday at a little after 2:00 PM a bus carrying local, county, and state officials arrived at Dreshar Stadium for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Tarentum Skatepark.

Tom Benecki, Executive Director of the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments welcomed everyone, and introduced Dan Onorato, Chief Executive of Allegheny County.

Tarentum Council President Carl Magnetta spoke about many people who were intially opposed to the skatepark but who gradually came on board as they learned more about it. He suggested that the skatepark should be named the James E. Wolfe Skatepark in honor of the long-time mayor of the Borough of Tarentum.

Waiting for the arrival of the county-mobileCouncilwoman Ginger Sopcak, who is credited with having started the project, offered remarks and introduced skater Chris Tady who thanked all the politicians who had made the park possible.

There were further speeches by State Senator Sean Logan, State Representative Frank Dermody, and Allegheny County Council representative Jim Burn.

The rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of those who came to see the ceremony. Thanks to Tarentum Borough Manager Bill Rossey there was a tent available to shelter many from the rain.

Dan Onorato carrying shovels from the countymobile, followed by Frank Dermody

Plan for the Tarentum Skatepark

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