May 20, 2022
By Charlie Berthoud
A bike ride in Wisconsin farmland, a joyful meeting of Presbytery, a Covenant member taking on a significant role, as well as fajitas and homemade ice cream—all within 24 hours! I had a great time Monday and Tuesday!
On Tuesday morning, about 35 people gathered in person at Vesperman Farms, just outside of Lancaster, Wisconsin for a meeting of John Knox Presbytery —our first in-person meeting in over two years! We also had about 40 screens on Zoom, and we did our best with a blended meeting. The meeting was hosted by FPC Lancaster, led by Pastor Mark Hoehne.
I drove to Lancaster on Monday afternoon, so I could do three things I enjoy: ride my bike in a new place, take some pix, and eat at a Mexican restaurant. I went three for three, even with lots of wind on the bike ride. Plus I had time to write in my journal.
The Lancaster courthouse building is spectacular. And I was blessed to have fajitas with some Presbyterian colleagues, including our beloved Stated Clerk, Alyson Janke.
At the meeting on Tuesday, our own Laurie Jones was installed as Moderator of the Presbytery for 2022. Initially Laurie was scheduled to be Vice Moderator this year, but after the sudden and unexpected death of the 2022 Moderator, Laurie stepped into this role. We unanimously approved Teaching Elder Loren Schellenberger from Dubuque to be Vice Moderator for the remainder of 2022 and thus be Moderator in 2023.
Laurie joins several other people from Covenant who served in this important role: Rev Bill King (1986), Jane Arbogast (1995), Marsh Finner (2000), and Sally Lorenz (2004).
Clara Thompson was moderator in 2013, a few years before her “retirement job” at Covenant. It was good to see Laurie wearing the moderator’s stole that she made several years ago! I visited Marsh on my way home Tuesday afternoon, and he was delighted to hear about Laurie.
Peder Johanson from the Wisconsin Council of Churches encouraged churches to consider helping with refugee assistance. Following his presentation, we had small group Bible study on Acts 2, focused on the coming of God’s Spirit to the whole world.
Clara Thompson gave a report of the Administrative Commission for the Muscoda Presbyterian, which has been dealing with some challenges. Laurie is also on the Muscoda AC.
Candidate Natalie Handley (spouse of Covenant Communications Coordinator Derek Handley) was approved to do full time work at Christ Presbyterian as her field work, on recommendation of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). Natalie currently works at Christ and Pres House in contemporary music leadership.
I am in my sixth (and final) year on the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM), which helps candidates for ministry (like Chelsea Cornelius) in the process. I am honored to be the CPM liaison for Chelsea and Natalie. Covenant’s own Jo Wiersema was endorsed by our Session in April to begin the three-year process towards candidacy, and Faith Windsor Leonard is her liaison. Jo will be on the CPM agenda later this month to officially be enrolled as an Inquirer and then after a year become a Candidate.
Since last year, I’ve also been serving on the JKP Small Membership Church Task Force. We have dozens of small churches in our presbytery—some are thriving, many are struggling. The TF is strategizing for both to help churches be renewed and to move in a healthy way towards closing. I volunteered because I wanted to learn more about rural Wisconsin and to fulfill the ordination vow to be a faithful colleague.
We welcomed Rev. Sue Kremel our bridge Executive Presbyter, and we heard a report about good progress being made toward securing an interim Executive Presbyter. Sue offered an inspiring sermon focused on Matthew 25 and our collective call to build vital congregations, dismantle structural racism, and eradicate systemic poverty.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is meeting in late June and early July, via zoom and in-person. Each presbytery sends a designated number of Elders (aka Ruling Elders) and Pastors (Teaching Elders). At the meeting Tuesday, we commissioned our two Elders and two Pastors and our alternates—including alternate Laurie Jones!
Representing Covenant at the Tuesday meeting, along with me and Laurie, were Ruling Elder Commissioners Raleigh Jones (in-person) and Doug Rohn (zoom). Clara Thompson and Nancy Enderle were also present.
Every church meeting needs good food, and we had plenty! In the morning we enjoyed coffee, homemade donuts, and fruit. For lunch we had pulled pork, pasta salad, potato chips, and Vesperman’s homemade ice cream. I have strawberry AND cookies & cream. Yum.
Thanks be to God for our church!