Samaritas’ Director of Congregational Engagement Available to Supply Preach

The Synod of the Covenant is in a partnership with Samaritas, a Christian social services organization with ministries all over Michigan for senior and affordable living, foster care, new Americans, and building communities. (Learn more at www.samaritas.org.) You can learn about our partnership here.

Samaritas’ Director of Congregational Engagement, Rev. Beth Birkholz (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) is an accomplished preacher who would be glad to fill pulpits around Michigan. Rev. Birkholz is a graduate of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH, and has served churches in Atlanta, GA, and Livonia, MI. You can contact her at EBirk@samaritas.org or 313-400-3011.


Catch up on May’s Preaching Workshop: “Preaching Jokes to Power” with Columbia Seminary’s Jake Myers

Preaching Jokes to Power

Rev. Dr. Jake Myers of Columbia Theological Seminary offered the Synod’s monthly Preaching Workshop on May 4, 2022, helping participants connect the wisdom of stand-up comedians with the office of preaching.

The Presbyterian News Service published an article about the workshop, which you can read here Presbyterian Mission Agency A high risk, high reward endeavor | Presbyterian Mission Agency.

You can watch the video, and other past monthly workshops, at Preaching Workshops – YouTube.


Facilitator: The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers

The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers is the Wade P. Huie, Jr. Associate Professor of Homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary. Dr. Myers is interested in homiletical theories and theologies, continental philosophies (esp. poststructuralism, existentialism, and phenomenology), and emerging expressions of faith and practice in postmodern, post-Christian contexts. His research focuses on alternative epistemologies for sermon development and delivery, the philosophical and theological conditions for the im-possibility of preaching, contextual/constructive biblical hermeneutics and theologies, and the ways in which preaching interacts with cultures and traditions.

Dr. Myers has authored or co-authored numerous essays and articles for such journals as Theology Today, Literature and Theology, Homiletic, and Worship. His book publications include the following: Making Love with Scripture: Why the Bible Doesn’t Mean How You Think It Means (Fortress, 2015); Preaching Must Die! Troubling Homiletical Theology (Fortress, 2017); Curating Church: Strategies for Innovative Worship (Abingdon, 2018); In Tongues of Mortals and Angels: A Deconstructive Theology of God-talk, co-authored with Eric D. Barreto and Nikki Young (Fortress Academic/Lexington Books, 2019); Proclaiming God at the Threshold of Philosophy (Mohr Siebeck, 2022); and Stand-up Preaching: Homiletical Insights from Contemporary Comedians (Cascade, 2022).

Dr. Myers received his BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University, his MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his PhD in Person, Community, and Religious Life from Emory University. Dr. Myers is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

This workshop is part of a monthly workshop series on preaching, the first Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. For an overview of the series, click here.


Synod Stated Clerk and Executive Are No Longer Interim

Coming out of the Synod Assembly on 5/3/22, Human Resources Committee of the Synod of the Covenant is pleased to announce that the Synod Assembly has approved Chip Hardwick as the permanent executive of the Synod of the Covenant and has elected Fran Lane-Lawrence as the stated clerk of the synod.  Human Resources Committee Chair Mary Jane Knapp states, “It is delightful to have permanent staff in place as we move forward.”

Synod Moderator Deb Uchtman added, “As the Moderator-elect on behalf of the Synod of the Covenant, I wish to extend congratulations to the Rev. Fran Lane-Lawrence on being elected Synod Stated Clerk and to the Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick on being elected Synod Executive at the most recent Synod Assembly. We are grateful that they will be able to continue the good works they have begun in God’s name.  The Holy Spirit continues to blow a breath of renewal and innovation, revitalization and rebuilding into the Synod of the Covenant through their leadership.”

The Rev. Fran Lane Lawrence is the Executive Presbyter and Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, and most recently served a congregation in Niles, MI.  The Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick most recently served a congregation in Lake Forest, IL, and is a member of the Presbytery of Miami Valley.

Congratulations Fran and Chip!


Join the Covenant Gathering Conference for All Ages from July 10-15

A Week of Intergenerational Formation

Covenant Gathering brings together people of all ages to co-create a week-long exploration of our Christian faith. Using an intergenerational approach and an all-volunteer Design Team, join us for a week to pray, play, and rest, together.

  • Learning and fun, together, with all ages!
  • An adult is only $425 (double occupancy), with commuter and online rates to make this year’s Gathering what you need!

Learning from Rev. Traci Smith, author, pastor, and parent, De’Amon Harges, community organizer and roaming listener, and Rev. Dr. Chip Hardwick, leader of the Synod of the Covenant, means learning to pray in relationship with people in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our Church bodies.

It also means “lessons” might feel more like gifts than classes.

Meet the Leaders

Your Schedule

Give yourself Time.

Give yourself Space.

The Design Team hopes you experience a week of fullness in God’s creation, with plenty of time to absorb what we discover, or rest and recover. It’s up to you.

Read More

Our Prayer this Summer

Prayer is at the core of Christian practice, both as individuals and as gathered bodies of believers as worshiping communities, like Covenant Gathering.

We are using a curriculum to guide our exploration this Summer! You can learn about This is Our Prayer and some of our hopes for it, this Summer, below.

Visit our Website

The Synod is Hiring an Organizer of Synod Communities of Color

At its Assembly on 5/3/22, the Synod of the Covenant approved a job description for a new contract position: Organizer of Synod Communities of Color.

This leader will draw on a community organizing approach to connect individuals and churches of color with each other, to discover joint interests as well as hopes for shared ministries and support from the Synod. It is a term position of approximately one year, at approximately half-time, and will be guided by a Steering Committee and report to the Synod Executive. The Asian, Black, Latino/Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Native American communities have much to teach and much to gain as joint ministries bubble up and coalesce, facilitated by this Organizer position.

Please reach out to the Executive Chip Hardwick at 309-530-4578 or chip@synodofthecovenant.org to ask questions, recommend candidates, or to apply with a cover letter and resume.


When Good News is Harder to Find: Preaching in the Wake of Trauma

When Good News is Harder to Find: Preaching in the Wake of Trauma

August 3, 2022 : 10:00 - 11:30 am by Zoom

Whether due to gun violence, natural disasters, or the impact of public health crises, mass trauma impacts almost every community in the United States. It is not a matter of if communities and the preachers that serve them will face incidents of mass or communal trauma, but when. Though language often fails us in the midst of trauma, preachers and religious leaders are nevertheless called upon to “offer a Word” to a hurting community.

In this workshop, we will consider together both the individual and communal impacts of trauma. Understanding the nature of trauma, we will then turn to think about how our preaching might faithfully and helpfully respond to such experiences, both in preaching content and sermon form. Finally, we will consider wisdom from our biblical ancestors that might help us to navigate these challenging days and offer preachers and community leaders insight on how to accompany communities through seasons marked by trauma.

Facilitator: The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Wagner

The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Wagner serves as the Assistant Professor of Homiletics in the Axel Jacob and Gerda Maria (Swanson) Carlson Chair in Homiletics at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC). Though currently serving among the Lutherans and educated among United Methodists (Candler School of Theology and Emory University), Dr. Wagner is ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Her current writing and work focus on preaching and ministry in the midst and wake of trauma, particularly thinking about collective trauma, the role of the community, and the resources of our Scriptures and faith to respond to these moments.

Dr. Wagner’s forthcoming book (Westminster John Knox Press) is about preaching in the wake of mass trauma, particularly thinking about mass violence, natural disasters, and public health crises. When not teaching, writing, or meeting over Zoom, she enjoys biking, tinkering on the piano, and walks along the lake with her dog, Toby.

Register Here

This workshop is part of a monthly workshop series on preaching, the first Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. For an overview of the series, click here.


From the Interim Executive

From the Interim Executive,

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!

I pray that you had an amazing celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday. The Resurrection is the fulcrum of our faith—proof that God has conquered death and sin when Jesus Christ rose from the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit. The resurrection is the best reminder that God is continually and consistently doing a new thing among us.

One of the ministry focus areas for the Synod this year also springs from the newness that Jesus initiates all around us: innovation in ministry. We recently hosted a conversation on innovation and one concrete idea that emerged was to offer the chance to learn from others who are innovating.

A first opportunity to do this will be part of our Synod Assembly on May 3, when we will learn from

  • Dolly Dong (Muskingum Valley Presbytery), Leader of a New Worshiping Community engaging the immigrant community
  • Paula Larson (Mackinac Presbytery), Ruling Elder leading her congregation to engage its neighbors and community more creatively
  • Bethany Peerbolte (Detroit Presbytery), Teaching Elder with almost 300,000 followers on TikTok

The Assembly begins at 4:30 and I suspect the panel will begin a little before 5:00 pm. To attend, register here (and you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like): https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUsd-mvrD4iGNJnCyN13ebsELQiO6k4pIi1

May the Resurrected Savior continue to give new life to our ministries and churches!

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive
chip@synodofthecovenant.org


O Say Can You See: Images and Illustrations in a Virtually Saturated World

O Say Can You See: Images and Illustrations in a Virtually Saturated World

June 1, 2022 : 10:00 - 11:30 am by Zoom

Register Here

The workshop will provide tools for “earthing” the sermon through employing the preacher’s imagination, attention, language, context, literature. and technology. Come ready to listen, discuss, and learn from each other and Dr. Fry Brown.

Facilitator: The Rev. Teresa L. Fry Brown, PhD

Rev. Teresa L. Fry Brown, PhD is the fourteenth Historiographer of the African Methodist Episcopal (2012). She serves as the editor of the A.ME. Review and is the Executive Director of Research and Scholarship for the A.M.E. Church.  She holds the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and is the first tenured Black female Candler School of Theology and the third Black female full professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  Dr. Fry Brown served as Director of Black Church Studies at Candler 2007-2015.

Dr. Fry Brown obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy in Religious and Theological Studies from the Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver, with an emphasis in Religion and Social Transformation (1996). She earned a Master of Divinity from Iliff School of Theology (1988), Master of Science degree (1975) and Bachelor of Science degree (1973) in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.

Register Here

This workshop is part of a monthly workshop series on preaching, the first Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. For an overview of the series, click here.


Preaching Jokes to Power

Preaching Jokes to Power

May 4, 2022 : 10:00 -11:30 am by Zoom

Register Here

Preaching and stand-up comedy share many traits. Both art forms transpire with a lone speaker addressing a more or less attuned audience on some matter of sociopolitical significance. Despite their commonalities, comedy and preaching bear a troubled history. Much discourse emerging from the contemporary comedy stage would lead to a slew of angry emails (and possibly termination) were it to come from the pulpit. Some even question whether humor is appropriate for the “serious” task of gospel proclamation. What, then, might preachers learn from comics?

Many stand-up comics have found ways to challenge sociopolitical norms through humor. While the efficacy of humor aimed toward social justice remains debatable, such humor prompts us to consider what preachers might learn from stand-up comics in this regard? This workshop interrogates the capacities of preaching and stand-up comedy to challenge structures of injustice, i.e., to preach jokes to power. It aims to help participants consider afresh how humor might lead their hearers to modulate their ways of believing, belonging, and behaving and perhaps to mobilize them for material action in the world.

Facilitator: The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers

The Rev. Dr. Jake Myers is the Wade P. Huie, Jr. Associate Professor of Homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary. Dr. Myers is interested in homiletical theories and theologies, continental philosophies (esp. poststructuralism, existentialism, and phenomenology), and emerging expressions of faith and practice in postmodern, post-Christian contexts. His research focuses on alternative epistemologies for sermon development and delivery, the philosophical and theological conditions for the im-possibility of preaching, contextual/constructive biblical hermeneutics and theologies, and the ways in which preaching interacts with cultures and traditions.

Dr. Myers has authored or co-authored numerous essays and articles for such journals as Theology Today, Literature and Theology, Homiletic, and Worship. His book publications include the following: Making Love with Scripture: Why the Bible Doesn’t Mean How You Think It Means (Fortress, 2015); Preaching Must Die! Troubling Homiletical Theology (Fortress, 2017); Curating Church: Strategies for Innovative Worship (Abingdon, 2018); In Tongues of Mortals and Angels: A Deconstructive Theology of God-talk, co-authored with Eric D. Barreto and Nikki Young (Fortress Academic/Lexington Books, 2019); Proclaiming God at the Threshold of Philosophy (Mohr Siebeck, 2022); and Stand-up Preaching: Homiletical Insights from Contemporary Comedians (Cascade, 2022).

Dr. Myers received his BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University, his MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his PhD in Person, Community, and Religious Life from Emory University. Dr. Myers is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Register Here

This workshop is part of a monthly workshop series on preaching, the first Wednesday of every month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. For an overview of the series, click here.


From the Interim Executive

From the Interim Executive,

Last week we marked Ash Wednesday, which “developed as a day of penitence to mark the beginning of Lent—the forty days of preparation for the celebrations of Easter,” as The New Handbook of the Christian Year puts it.  “On this day we … wait upon the Lord for a renewing Spirit.”

Christians typically think of Ash Wednesday and of Lent as a time to focus on our own personal sin, and our own need for renewal.  This year, however, I have been thinking about the ways that Sin still has hold over the world in a grander sense—not just in the sins that we individuals commit, but in the overwhelming brokenness of our culture and environment.  It is so easy to see that the world is not the way that God wants it to be.

In the days since Russia has invaded Ukraine, our broken world is even more obvious than is typically the case.  We see the drive for power; we see death and destruction; we see unrelenting greed and deceit.  It is hard to make a direct connection between the personal sins that I commit and the fallen nature of the world that I lament—so as Lent begins this year, I am moving my gaze away from my own shortfalls (which are many and frequent) and onto the power of Sin that corrupts God’s desires for shalom for our world.

Most Lenten practices are also personal in nature—like giving up chocolate or taking on a new devotional.  This year, though, I’m taking on the practice of working toward peace in Ukraine every week.  Maybe I’ll contact my legislators to encourage decisions which lead to shalom, or I’ll read first person accounts which let me understand the dynamics of the war, or I’ll look for marches in which I can walk, or I’ll donate to humanitarian and peacemaking ministries.

All of these practices are unusual for me and will stretch me in ways that my recent practices to write letters or to read the Scriptures more thoughtfully never have.  It’s a little unnerving—but I am hoping that day by day I will feel ever more fully the Lord’s renewing Spirit upon me.

How will you grow this Lent?  Let me know.

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive
chip@synodofthecovenant.org