Patterning God’s extravagant generosity

By Helen Bessent Byrd (M.Div. ‘07)

There were simple things of life that many people take for granted that some did not enjoy years ago – like having your mail delivered to your door. As a child living on our farm, we did not have mailboxes at our door. Our mail was placed in our mailbox on another road two miles away. Some families who lived on our farm did not have mailboxes at all. They received mail in our box. It was sent “in care of” my parents. The people trusted my parents to be stewards of their mail and to give it to them. The mail or package coming to a steward is marked c/o, meaning “in care of.” Stewardship is being entrusted with or taking care of someone else’s possessions. The steward has responsibility and accountability for oversight of OPP (Other People’s Property). Early on, stewardship came to mean tithing or the donation of time, talents, and treasures.

The prophet Haggai wrote to a little community of struggling, disappointed, and dispirited people whose dream was fading as they teetered on the brink of extinction. Haggai expressed a vision to make them have purpose knowing that God would work among them once more (Haggai 2:7-9). He reminded them that God was the steward of all they needed and desired. Haggai quotes God who was unequivocal and emphatic in saying “The silver is mine. The gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8). God is the creator and master of the treasury of all currency, the splendor of all material possessions, the joys of all intangible blessings. They were to put the sage’s saying to work: “If you can conceive it, you can believe it and if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” With references to the traditions of the past, the prophet sought to impress upon the people that God was at work again among them who were to be stewards of others. The people followed the teaching of Haggai and his prophecy came to pass.

The generosity of God, our Master, provides for us a pattern for our response to God and our practice with each other. As we endure the challenge of envisioning and carrying out the ministry and mission to which God has called us, remember we are “in care of” an awesome God who promised, “I will fill this house with glory.” Just as God was extravagantly generous to the little Jewish community in Haggai’s time, we are in His care and He will show extravagant generosity to us. Realizing the merit of stewardship and the value of giving, know that God fully expects us to show extravagant generosity in caring for others through support of our seminary investing in the transformation of students who are called by God to give their lives for spiritual transformation of our national and global society.

Life cannot grind to a halt during troubled times

By Veronica Martin Thomas (M.Div. ’07)

The prophet Jeremiah’s letter to the people of Jerusalem who had been carried away captive to Babylon is recorded in Jeremiah 29:4-9.  He assures them that he wrote in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Jeremiah was but the scribe. It would be comfortable to them in their captivity to hear that God is the Lord of hosts, able to help and deliver them, and he is the God of Israel still in covenant with his people.

If God caused them to be carried away captives, they might be sure that he neither did them any wrong nor meant them any harm. If they live in the fear of God, what should hinder them but they may live comfortably in Babylon? They did not worry themselves with fears of intolerable hardships in their captivity. God directed them to seek the good of the country where they were captives to pray for it, to endeavor to promote it.

This prohibited them from attempting anything against the public peace while they were subjects to the King of Babylon. They lived quiet and peaceable lives under the King of Babylon, in all godliness and honesty, not plotting to shake off his yoke, but patiently leaving it to God in due time to work deliverance for them. They were instructed by God to settle down, lead constructive lives and try to be on good terms with the authorities. They were not to rebel or instigate revolt but just settle down and be law-abiding citizens.

As it was with Judah, so be it with us, believers, be assured God has a hand in every outcome of our lives. We must do as Jeremiah instructed Judah to move ahead with our lives and to pray whether times are good or times are bad. Life cannot grind to a halt during troubled times. In an unpleasant or distressing situation, we must adjust and keep moving. When we enter times of trouble or sudden change, we must pray diligently and move ahead, doing whatever we can rather than giving up because of fear and uncertainty.

In all conditions of life, it is our wisdom and duty to make the best of what God has provided for us.  If the earth be the Lord’s, then wherever a child of God goes he does not go off his Father’s ground. God knows the plans he has for us…Trust in the Lord and not our current situation.  Let us respond to the Word of God.  “Amen, so be it.”

Moving into our third 30s: older & aging adult ministry

By Ronald Hopkins (D. Min. ‘09)

Several years ago I took a continuing education course on “Older and Aging Adults” – the persons who attend and financially support most of our churches regardless of denomination. The pastor teaching the course, The Rev. Dr. Richard H. Gentzler, former Director of the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries of the United Methodist Church, was retiring from the ministry after this course. I was intrigued with the subject matter and his presentation.

At that time I was in my 11th year of serving the same congregation and began to realize that a new calling and opportunity was staring me in the face. My present congregation’s average age was 73, counting children and young adults 30 and above. As I was completing the course, my heart told me, perhaps, I needed to learn more; so I inquired of the staff at Union Presbyterian Seminary if this was something the Presbyterian Church was also doing, and was introduced to the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN).  In talking with Marilyn Johns, I was informed that POAMN was having its annual meeting in Missouri, and, if interested, I should attend where I could learn more.

I decided to go and there I met a lot of very interesting people, including former UPSem faculty: professors Henry Simmons and Jean Cooley, just to name a few.  I was informed of the process to become certified and immediately took the required course work over a three-year period. I am now preparing for my capstone project to complete the final step of becoming certified as a facilitator of Older and Aging Adult Ministry.

If anyone is interested, I recommend you get in touch with your respective judicatory to see if your denomination has a program similar to those of the Presbyterian, United Methodist, Mennonite or Episcopal Church. Also, if you see me around campus, and are interested in this program, please let me know how I can help.

Book explores transgenerational trauma from chattel slavery

By Veronica Thomas & Helen Bessent Byrd

Dr. Paula Owens Parker (M.Div..‘94), Adjunct Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation at Union Presbyterian Seminary, has authored a book which aids professionals who seek to explore cultural variance and examine trauma and resilience in families across generations.

An ordained Presbyterian minister with numerous experiences as a spiritual director, retreat leader and healing prayer minister, Dr. Parker was the founder and former executive director of the Daughters of Zelophehad, Inc, an ecumenical Christian transitional housing program for women in crisis and their children and is the Senior Program Developer of Roots Matter LLC. The author notes that “Roots Matter” recognizes the impact of transgenerational trauma as a result of chattel slavery on the African-American church community. It emphasizes the importance of discovering the silent stories—those that were overlooked and ignored; unearthing the secret stories—those that were intentionally covered up; and being attentive to the reverberations of the severed stories of slavery and how they influence the family story and family members.

Via literature reviews, the book investigates the historical, psychological, sociological, and theological issues around historical pain and trauma and analyzes the ramifications of transgenerational trauma in the Jewish, Armenian, and Native American communities as well as the African American community. Further, it proposes the use of the genogram, a graphic representation of a family tree that goes beyond a traditional family tree by allowing the user to analyze hereditary patterns and physical, spiritual, behavioral, and psychological factors that punctuate relationships and family history. The genogram reveals patterns of trauma and resilience by recording significant dates, losses, achievements, values, and beliefs. Examples of biblical and contemporary families are used to illustrate the concepts of family systems and the transmission of generational patterns of connections, actions, and conduct.

A leader’s guide outlines a six-week curriculum and culminating ceremony of intercessory prayer for the healing of identified trauma and acknowledged strengths, abilities, and talents. Interrupting the transference of generational trauma through mourning, forgiveness, and prayers for healing accelerates the transference of generational resilience. Through celebration and blessing, the fortitude, courage, and determination in the family story move current and future generations toward healing and wholeness. This excellent resource, “Roots Matter, “prunes the family tree of trauma, silent, secret, and severed stories that stunt the growth of the family. Tending to family roots and fertilizing them with the recognition of the resilience, achievements, gifts, and talents of the ancestors create a healthier environment for future generations to flourish.