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     December 16, 2021


This is the first edition of News to Use, the twice-monthly newsletter
bringing timely information to everyone across our Presbytery.  This is the space in which we can share news of upcoming Presbytery and
denominational events, educational articles, activities in our churches, and so much more!

Communication is one priority for our Presbytery in 2022 because it plays an essential part in our community life together. We are making progress in creating more intentional, integrative, durable communication networks across the Presbytery!  
Even as you are reading this welcome, Stu Smith is hard at work re-
designing the Presbytery webpage to be user-friendly and flexible.  The Presbytery also has continuing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, which we can integrate into our communications toolbox to get the word out!  This News to Use newsletter will also be integrated into the new website.  Thanks to Stu for contributing his expertise to the construction and hosting of this updated website.
As we move forward, we will be considering how we can best use these communication tools intentionally as both inward-facing sites for information sharing and education across the presbytery, and outward-facing sites to share mission and ministry information and opportunities more widely.

Starting in January, the General Council will be providing leadership on this issue as we devise a Communications Strategic Plan, so that we may be, perhaps literally, on the same page. 

This attention to the ways we need to communicate with each other will
also prompt us to articulate and affirm identity, mission, and vision
statements for ourselves. 

Also, I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the Presbytery as soon as possible, and I would welcome invitations to join you for your Sunday worship service or a session meeting.  January and February dates have already filled, so our thoughts can turn to Spring as we plan into March and beyond!

Continue to watch this space to be a part of this vital conversation, starting in 2022!

**Thanks to the Reverend Bob Wollenberg for sharing his beautiful photograph taken in the midst of the Presbytery as our cover art.

Grace and peace -- Rebecca



Presbyterian Disaster Response has reached out to the Presbytery of Western Kentucky after a devastating tornado ripped through the area, killing more than 50 people with missing people yet to be located. Please join in praying for the community as search and rescue is still underway at this time. Once the search and rescue phase is complete, PDA will be available to help with recovery at the invitation of the Presbytery of Western Kentucky and with the approval of PCUSA leadership.

If you or your church is interested in serving on a PDA work team, now is the time to engage in advanced planning, so that our Presbytery can compile a list of available folks to be ready at the point that PDA issues an invitation for recovery teams.  Please contact Rebecca to indicate your interest (319-930-7470 or

Let's generously support the PDA response!

Gifts can be designated to DR000015



Stated Clerk mourns loss of life in
December tornado outbreak



This season of Joy has been stunned by an unusual and historic outbreak of severe weather across the Midwest and we once again find ourselves in mourning, as communities deal with the aftermath of a tornado outbreak that has left scores of people dead. Six states are now picking up the pieces left by as many as 30 twisters that have destroyed homes, businesses, churches, and lives. We wait in agony as the death toll climbs higher.

In Kentucky alone, at least four tornadoes were reported, one traveling as far as 200 miles, leaving devastation and grief in its path. Our hearts break at the loss of dozens of lives at a factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, a town that was especially hard hit. We are seeing images of total destruction, even among churches of all denominations, leveled in the night by powerful winds.

People in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee are also suffering loss, including an Illinois factory and an Arkansas nursing home.

It will be weeks before we know the extent of damage these storms have caused, but we call on everyone to make this a true season of giving and support efforts to help those impacted by this tragedy.

We pray for emergency crews that must move quickly, yet cautiously through mountains of debris in search of survivors. We ask God to keep them safe and provide them with the needed strength for the difficult task ahead.

We ask Presbyterians and other concerned individuals across this country to pray for the towns and communities impacted by these horrific storms. We pray that God will wrap loving arms around each family during what should be a time of celebration and re-birth. Through the pain, we have the assurance that God loves us and will restore us in our hour of need.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has mobilized a response and has reached out to affected presbyteries. Gifts can be designated to DR000015.

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Salt – Light – Hope

reflections and care for those who serve in pandemic
rebecca blair, lead presbyter for transformation | stated clerk

 Advent represents a liminal space.  An in-between space in which we hope for the Light that is to come, just as we have waited through pandemic spaces for the new thing that God is working in our midst.  Yet, the intensity of the care and compassion that we have been called upon to share across the last several months grieves and fatigues us, even as Advent hope brings joy. We are absent one from another without the possibility of true human touch in our caring. And this has been tough.  We who care need care ourselves, and Jesus’ intimate words of tender care in Matthew--Beloved, rest, let go, let your souls rest in me—wrap us in respite and offer peace as we wait.

God’s presence with us, through the birth of Jesus Christ and beyond, God’s shepherding love for us, includes heart rest, mind rest, soul rest. In this busy holiday season, God is present not just in liturgy and song. God is palpably close, inviting us to deep rest from anxiety, sadness, perfection, longing, discouragement, pressure for success—inviting us to be still, to listen deeply to receive God’s love, which surrounds and carries us, to hold hope together for what is to come.  O, come to us, abide with us, Immanuel!

Rest in this lovely setting of "Silent Night"
Sung by the Winchester Cathedral Choir

For more information about Presbyterian Youth
Triennium, contact Triennium Registrar

Melinda (Mindy) Watts-Ellis, Director Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, First Presbyterian Church, 
Champaign, IL 61820

217-356-7238 or
There are lots of posters, flyers, and postcards available!

Presbyterians for Earth Care

Meditation from our 2021 Creation Care Advent Devotional:
Philippians 4:4-7

This text tells us of the powerful proclamation of John the Baptist to crowds hungry for baptism and forgiveness of sins. However, lest any take God’s forgiveness for granted, he warns: “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” How can this be an Advent message?

Dennis Ormseth writes, “From Babylon to the Roman Empire, from Isaiah’s to Luke’s audience, historical contexts and textual connections combine to make ‘an ax lying at the root’ an ominous sign of threatening disaster--material, social and religious.” He notes that early readers of Luke would remember Rome’s terrible stripping of forests, especially those in the beautiful countryside around Jerusalem, for timber to construct massive wooden defenses.

The depletion of trees in the current climate crisis is in stark contrast with Scripture’s portrayal of trees as powerful symbols of life and of blessing. Do we who delight in our sparkling Christmas trees, hear John calling us to repent of our lifestyles’ contributions to felling our own great forests? Certainly COP26 calls attention to that!

This reminder of our responsibility to protect Creation need not lessen our joy as we prepare ourselves for Christmas. John’s heralding of the Messiah’s coming to “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire” announces the way to an ever-renewed Creation, with Christ’s birth of love again and always in our hearts.

May this meditation encourage you to see the beauty of your own Christmas tree as a symbol of God’s Spirit in our time. Let it summon forth actions whose fruits honor the sacredness of trees… and all Creation. Amen.

-Written by Nancy Corson Carter
You can download a complete PEC Advent Devotional from our website here: Please share with your church,your family, and your friends!


Have you recently been elected Clerk of Session?
Would you like more information about this important role?
Join our new Lead Presbyter for Transformation and Stated Clerk, Dr. Rebecca Blair, for conversation, support, and continuing education about the role of Clerk of Session. 
She has adapted the required review procedure for this time of COVID when we cannot meet in person.  You are invited to attend the Session Minutes Review workshop for your region to be held virtually using Zoom-- OR if you are unable to attend that session you can join one in a nearby region or schedule an individual conversation!

We will make arrangements for those clerks of session without internet connectivity to join neighboring clerks at a church site, so that everyone has access to these sessions.  Each session will take place on a Saturday morning to accommodate work schedules as much as possible.  The schedule is printed below:
Greater Decatur        Saturday, February 5, 10 am - Noon
First Capital               Saturday, February 12, 10 am-Noon
River to River            Saturday, February, 19, 10 am-Noon
The Bridge                 Saturday, February 26, 10 am-Noon 
East Central               Saturday, March 5, 10 am-Noon
Salt Fork                     Saturday, March 12, 10 am-Noon
In addition, Rebecca has developed a HANDBOOK FOR CLERKS OF SESSION with all the resources you will need to serve well in this role! She will share this resource on the Presbytery website along with the Minutes Review Sheet.
To sign up for a workshop slot, please fill out the SignUp Genius form by clicking this link:

Find the date of the session that you want to attend and add your name in one of the slots.  Each session has a cap of 15 persons.  Once you are registered, Rebecca will send you the Zoom link with the passcode.

Thanks for ALL that you do in service to the church!
LPTSC Dr. Rebecca Blair

Download McCormick’s 2021 Advent Devotional here: A special thank you
to everyone who participated! If you are interested in writing for future
devotionals, please contact Stephanie Moore at Have a blessed Advent season!


Advice from Legal Services - Church Lease and Covenant Issues
PC(USA) General Counsel Mike Kirk has prepared advice on best practices when a church is considering allowing an outside group to use its building. Church sessions should discuss this information, particularly if your church hosts a Boy Scout troop.


World Council of Churches urges ‘a new way of living’ in its annual Christmas greeting

by the Rev. Dr. Ioan Sauca, World Council of Churches | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Al Elmes via Unsplash


For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” — 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NRSV)

The Christmas story fascinates, intrigues and challenges.

It is a fascinating story, among other reasons, because the revelation of
what God has graciously done in Christ for the renewal of the whole creation comes to us through narratives in which the main actors are not the powerful living in palaces, but the humble living in the margins.

Think of the Christmas stories from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. What comes to mind? A modest couple facing difficulties; a vulnerable child threatened by the cruelty of a king; a pregnant woman who does not find a hotel room to give birth; anonymous shepherds who receive good news from a crowd of angels; a young family pushed to migration.

All of them are on the underside of history. All of them are the bearers of the divine promise about the final destination of history.

What Mary celebrated in the spirit of the Hebrew prophets, by singing that her Savior had “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly,” the apostle Paul formulates in terms of the self-emptying of the Son of God, who became poor “for us and for our salvation,” as expressed later in the words of the Nicene Creed.

The Christmas story and its fascinating paradox invite us to meditate about Christian life in today’s world. Preaching in Constantinople about the second letter to the Corinthians, Saint John Chrysostom spoke of two altars in Christian life, which are inseparable from each other: the altar of Holy Communion and the altar of compassion. We cannot receive the Heavenly Bread without engaging in active solidarity, in “the liturgy after the liturgy”, with those who cannot receive the earthly bread.

Ours are times in which the pandemic has catalyzed the risks of the climate emergency, the systemic inequalities between rich and poor, and
widespread gender-based violence.

As we prepare ourselves to welcome the One who manifested the God of
the widow, the foreigner and the orphan, let not our minds conform to the
spirit of greed of our times. Let us repent and convert to new ways of living that express our care for future generations. Let Christ’s love move the world to reconciliation and unity.

May your Christmas be blessed and its message of joy and hope overwhelm your lives. Christ is born, let us glorify him!

The Rev. Dr. Ioan Sauca is the Acting General Secretary of the World Council of Churches

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