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    GA 220 FAQs for Brown Memorial

    by Emily Proctor

    Q: When will Rev. Proctor be at the General Assembly in Pittsburgh? A: June 29 – July 7, 2012

    Q: Who should we contact in case of pastoral emergency in her absence?
    A: Rev. Bill Bearden will be handling any pastoral emergencies, but Emily should have limited availability via cell phone and e-mail, so please keep her in the loop. Rev. Bearden’s phone number can be obtained by calling the church office or in the most recent issue of the Tidings or bulletin announcements.

    Q: What is a “General Assembly”?
    A: The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by presbyteries. Half of the commissioners will be Ministers of Word and Sacrament (also known as teaching elders), and half will be ruling elders (i.e., who serve on the session of a congregation). The General Assembly reviews the work of synods (Baltimore Presbytery is part of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic), resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church.

    The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies. For more details about how it works, click here.

    Q: What will Rev. Proctor’s role be at this GA?
    A: I will be serving as both a teaching elder commissioner, which means I will have full voice and vote on the floor of the plenary, and also have the ability to submit with another commissioner a commissioner’s resolution, asking the Assembly to take action on some item of business. As of now, I have no plans to submit such a resolution.

    I am also serving as the Vice Moderator of Committee 20, which will handle all overtures related to the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. One of the exciting items of business coming before our committee will the proposal asking the Assembly to receive the new hymnal. For more information about the new hymnal, which will be ready for congregations in the Fall of 2013, click here. In addition to helping moderate a portion of our business, I will also be responsible for planning the worship of the committee, which consists of 54 commissioners from all over the country.

    Q: What business coming before the Assembly do you recommend we pay attention to?
    A: The Presbytery of Baltimore identifies the following reports and overtures as worth watching, and I have added in parentheses the part that particularly concerns me:

    • Mid Council Report (dissolution of synods; creation of non-geographic presbyteries)
    • Review of Biennial Assemblies (especially the requirement that overtures have concurrence from 10% or 16 presbyteries before coming before the GA)
    • 2012-1 Approving an AI to Allow Minister to Perform Weddings and 2012-4 On Amending W-4 9000 Defining Marriage (how the assembly handles these overtures from Baltimore Presbytery and related overtures on marriage will have a significant impact not only for many ministers, GLBT Presbyterians, and their loved ones, but also on a number of congregations trying to decide whether or not to remain with the PCUSA)
    • Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee (issues before this committee have disturbed many of my Jewish colleagues, even as they seek to address concerns about the plight of Palestinian Christians and Muslims)
    • Heidelberg Catechism (new translation approved by the Reformed Church of America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America in 2012, with new scripture references, corresponding with the original 1563 document)
    • Special Commission on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century
    • Special Commission on AIs Recommendation (retains or rejects Authoritative Interpretations, based on their applicability to the new Form of Government)

    Q: If I want to learn more or follow the business at GA more closely, what are my options?
    A: The most general and easy to use website can be found here. From there you can link to resources as well as a website called PC-BIZ, where you can read all the overtures, see committee lists and agendas, and track the business as it happens at GA. If you decide to create a username and password, you can also flag specific overtures to watch and create notes related to specific overtures. Usually there is a live internet feed of the plenary sessions as well.

    If you use Twitter, the hashtag for the General Assembly is #GA220. Peter Nord (PeterNord) will be tweeting the event and using a special hashtag for Baltimore-related matters: #GA220BAL. I (EmroseProctor) will probably be tweeting some as well. The GA policy on social media is (my paraphrase) “Do what you want with your thumbs, but keep your heart in the game, be as present as possible, and let your actions facilitate, not hinder, working of the Holy Spirit.” You can also “like” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Facebook or follow @Presbyterian on Twitter.

    Peter Nord, Baltimore Presbytery’s General Presbyter, will also be sending out a daily e-mail and filming a 2-min video each day, which he will post to You Tube. Contact the presbytery (office@baltimorepresbytery.org) for more information about how to receive these updates.

    Q: If I don’t want to follow the details of the assembly, what else can I do?
    A: Pray for me and for all the commissioners, that we might truly discern the will of Christ for our denomination and be strengthened as a body as a result of our time together.

    Open Space Conversations--A Success!!

    On June 10, we held our first congregational lunch with “open space” conversations. We had 5 official “sparkers” and two or three unofficial conversations happening, and including kids, about fifty people participated. If you weren’t able to make it, here’s a snapshot of what was “sparked.”

    Parenting in Faith – sparked by Emily & George Brown
    Emily and George Brown sparked a conversation with two other families about what kind of opportunities for support and education they’d like to see for parents at Brown. Let them know if you are interested in meeting with other parents on a more regular basis.

    Exploring Meditation and Prayer Together – sparked by June Fletcher Hill
    Using the questions “What draws you to these words? What do you seek?” we had a wonderful conversation about …

    • Paying attention to what makes us feel grounded
    • The ability to stop, to stop our racing minds especially
    • Praying constantly and finding a system or method of working through prayer and meditation during the day
    • The richness of silence when it is experienced as part of a group
    • Music, walking, swimming … as ways of grounding us and getting away from multi-tasking
    • The various needs/desires we all have for spaciousness of time for quiet, nourishment, and connecting

    Thank you to those who participated in the conversation! Also, Barbara Cates let us know that there is a regular Taize Service every Sunday evening at 7:00 at Memorial Episcopal Church in their Peace and Justice Chapel. All are welcome to attend.

    As all are welcome to attend the Meditative Prayer Group’s next gathering for meditation, silence, and prayer on Sunday, July 8, 9:00 a.m., in the Church House before the 10:00 worship service.

    Planning an All-Church Retreat – sparked by Deb Baer
    Deb Baer sparked a conversation about planning for a church retreat, to be held this fall in conjunction with the high school/confirmation retreat at YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater, MD on Oct. 13th. They agreed that they wanted the retreat to appeal to all members, not just families with children, and that leadership could be sought in house, instead of inviting a guest leader. Music, free time, worship (perhaps led by some of the youth?), and how to reach out to potential new members were all discussed. Betsy Nix agreed to help Deb form a planning team to work on this more. Let them know if you would like to help.

    Connecting with Global Mission – sparked by Grace Peng
    Grace Peng, along with Julie Hanks and Don Peeples from the Global Misison Committee, wondered what kinds of things the congregation would like to see the Global Mission Committee sponsor. Folks agreed that family-type activities related to Global Mission are very attractive. The group was excited to learn about the new Baltimore Dakota Learning Camp “for families” that is in the works for the summer of 2013. The idea of a global art exhibit/auction garnered some interest, and Laura McConnell agreed to help the GMC with a brochure educating the congregation about ways to connect with our global partners.

    Sharing Experiences of Mental Illness – sparked by Jim Egan
    Jim Egan, on behalf of the deacons, invited people to share the challenges of mental illness diagnoses from both family and client perspectives, and many did. All expressed their desire for ongoing dialogue between clinicians, academia and clients in our congregation. If mental illness is something you’d like to learn more about or if you have experiences you’d like to share, please let Jim or another deacon know.

    Sermon Talk-Back – sparked by Emily Proctor
    Emily Proctor sparked a “sermon talk-back” conversation, but mostly it turned out to be just a chance to get to know each other better over lunch. A most worthy conversation!

    Off the Board
    Open Space is all about freedom, creativity, and “outside the box” thinking. So it is fitting that several conversations happened “off the board,” so to speak. Jonathan Barnes and Yari Peng played a rousing game of chess at one unoccupied table. Taylor Branch met with the Soulful Review to pick out songs to rehearse for the August 19th worship service. And several people went to hear Kathryn Wagner speak about Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy and see the screening of Darius Goes West at Johns Hopkins. There was also a good bit of good old-fashioned playing by the ten or so kids whose parents were conversing downstairs.

    Our next opportunity for open space conversation is on August 12.

    What conversation would you like to spark?

    Theological Principles for Thinking about Economic Discipleship

    During October and November, a dozen of us at Brown have been looking at our budgets, reading scripture, and researching things like free trade and fair trade to try to understand what it means to follow Jesus in such a money-driven world. Below is a summary of my attempt at developing a Biblical/Theological framework for thinking about economic discipleship. I can e-mail you the more detailed version with sub-points and scripture references if you like.

    A Biblical/Theological Framework
    1. God’s people are called to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and guard against idolatry.
    2. God desires the flourishing of creation, including human beings. In other words, wealth/abundance is not inherently bad, unless it leads to or results from idolatry or injustice.
    3. God’s people are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, and not only our neighbors but also strangers and enemies.
    4. God responds to the cries of the poor, the needy, and the oppressed, and so should we. Not only that but in Christ, God deeply identifies with the poor.
    5. Work is good and necessary, but should not be all consuming or oppressive. It’s ultimate purpose is for the flourishing of God’s reign.
    6. Rulers/leaders/government should execute justice and protect the vulnerable.
    7. As a result of our freedom, our behavior has real consequences both for ourselves and others. Sin manifests itself both in our individual decisions and in our systems; the prophets and Christ openly exposed such sin and called for change.
    8. Christ does not guarantee his followers prosperity, comfort, or security in this lifetime—instead we are called to risk our lives for the sake of the gospel, trusting in the power and love of God.
    9. Our primary stance before God is one of gratitude for God’s gifts and God’s love/mercy. All our actions and our giving are primarily a grateful response.

    Which of these values resonates most deeply with you? Which of these values make you the most uncomfortable? Are there any that you hold that are missing?

    Emily Rose Proctor, Associate Pastor

    Magnetic Poetry Creations from Vacation Bible School - July 2011

    Week 1: The Call of Abram & Sarai

    Say, would you go
    push through the quicksand
    shed your name
    for God’s crazy dream
    or a better view of the stars?

    Week 2: Bath

    Feeling afraid? Lost? Vain? Dry? Ugly? Obsessed? Pathological?
    Want Jesus?
    Turn around! Seek the light! Start now!
    Vaporize the black hole with hope.
    Let the Spirit discover you through Living Water!
    Feel the phenomenal love transference between God and child.

    A new poem, based on our visit to the place of Romero's assassination in San Salvador

    Waiting at the Hospital of Divine Providence
    by Emily Rose Proctor

    Perhaps the die was cast
    when Monsignor Romero
    centrist pick of the elite
    asked to live
    in a little room at the Hospital
    of Divine Providence, where the sisters pray
    and tend the dying, and the dying pray
    and wait.

    There are many ways to wait.

    One is to shed what you thought
    you needed and wrench your gaze
    toward the tortured bodies
    of your people.
    To take off your shoes
    and step gingerly
    on the blood-soaked ground.
    To take the microphone and give the soldiers a new command—
    but really not so new.

    (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…)

    You can stand at the altar
    with the Word of God
    in your hands and on your lips.
    And when the bright red
    Volkswagen pulls up
    to the doors of the chapel
    and the driver kneels down
    at the tire, you can,
    as the sniper points the gun
    over the heads of your people
    at your heart,

    break the bread of your body,
    offer the dark red cup of salvation.

    A poem based on John 3:1-21

    Holy Spirit*
    by Emily Rose Proctor

    The rabbis knew.
    And the first Christians.
    What we English-speakers
    have divided and conquered
    is better left a trinity.

    Left to dance
    in more ancient tongues,
    it is the thing we cannot live without,
    above us and around us and inside of us,
    weaving in and out of fish and fowl and beast and neighbor,
    forcing out over vocal cords a sigh or a sob
    or a sermon or a whisper or a scream.

    Left to dance
    in more ancient tongues,
    it is free to knock us down,
    to level our house, or at least slow us down
    or fill our sails
    or make us change direction completely.

    *The words translated as “Spirit” in English, also mean “breath” and “wind” in Hebrew (ruah) and in Greek (pneuma).

    An open letter to members and friends of Brown Memorial Park Avenue and other people of faith in Maryland

     Brothers and sisters,

     As you know, our pastoral staff and many members have been vocal supporters of equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons within the church and society.  Our commitment is sustained by biblical witness.  Our pastors have counseled us, just as Peter makes clear to the council in Jerusalem, that throughout our history, the church must remain open to the Spirit leading us in new directions, even directions that sometimes conflict with the past. 

    The debates over what is “clean” and “unclean” have taken place for centuries.  Deuteronomy (23) prohibits eunuchs and foreigners from worshiping in the Temple while Isaiah (56) directly disagrees.  The 1st and 2nd books of Kings fault Solomon’s love for foreign wives as the reasons for his downfall, while the book of Ruth lifts up a Moabite as the model for how a foreigner can become a faithful member of the household of God.  Jesus consorts with all the “wrong” people and pulls together a beloved community where no distinction is strong enough to create division.  Throughout the history of the church, our views have changed as we have listened more deeply to the call of the Spirit.  It is the Spirit that authorizes the church to understand that God’s grace is open and available, even and perhaps especially in these days to LGBT persons.

    And so our congregation has not simply tolerated LGBT persons, but embraced them/us, insisting that whatever behavioral standards we wish to apply to LGBT persons must be the same standards that apply to all within the community of faith.  This commitment has led our congregation on a journey, declaring that we are open to all people, declaring that leadership is open to all, declaring that the only sexual ethic that makes sense in the community of faith is one that applies to gay and straight alike.  We have, at times, been in tension with the larger Presbyterian Church-USA over our commitment.  We have, at times, been in tension with one another.  In the sweep of history, we believe we will be acknowledged as a leader called to take faithful risks to build the kind of community that Jesus would build himself were he among us in flesh and blood.

    In recent years our struggle has led us into the public arena, fighting for marriage equality.  First, supporting same-sex couples before the Maryland Court of Appeals, then to the halls of the legislature, to share our perspective with our legislators.  It brings us great pain to know that the leading organized voice against equality in our state resides in the Church.  Repeatedly we are told that delegates and Senators vote against marriage equality “because of religious belief.”
    Because of this reality, it is incumbent on those of us who believe differently to express our convictions – our religious convictions to our leaders in Annapolis.  If you feel so called, let them know you are a Christian who believes with Peter, that God shows no partiality, and we err in trying to hinder God’s choosing of people we have excluded in the past (Acts 10-11).  Let them know that we are a mainline congregation with LGBT members who deserve the same protections as everyone else.  Let them know that you do not appreciate one religious viewpoint (one of exclusion) being codified into law.  Let them know that you appreciate religious difference, but do not wish that difference to deny important protections to you, or people in your family, or people in our community whom you love.

    We know that not everyone in our congregation will agree with these convictions and this outlook.  We have constructed a community of diversity and we remain committed to a community of openness, with a diversity of conviction and belief.  Yet the truth in Annapolis right now is that the religious voices of those who oppose marriage equality are so loud that the public debate appears to be misinformed on the numbers of us who do support this change.  The language that is assaulting many of our Delegates and Senators is more than respectful disagreement.  It is rife with the vilification of a class of people.

    So we ask you to take the time this week to call your legislators.  Find out where they stand on the marriage equality bill.  Let them know of your perspective and insist that they listen. You can find your legislators and their contact information here – http://mdelect.net/electedofficials/
    Page Campbell, Andy Imparato  Co-Chairs, Diversity Committee
    Hilbert Byers, Past Chair, Urban Witness Committee                             
    David Nyweide, Chair, Urban Witness Committee
    Cheryl Finney, Elden Schneider, and Tom Waldron, Past Chairs, Urban Witness Committee

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