From the Interim Executive….

From the Interim Executive,

I’m writing this on February 18th, the day after Ash Wednesday.  I missed the chance to worship in person, but I’m very grateful for the service organized by Cincinnati Presbytery.  It helped me reflect on our mortality and sinfulness, and to prepare for Lent.

As I prayed and considered what to give up, or what to take on, for Lent, my thoughts went to the Matthew 25 initiative, of which the Synod, many presbyteries, and even more churches are a part. It encourages us together and as individuals to focus on developing congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty.

Thinking through the ways that I might work toward these goals, I landed on my Lenten practice.  Every day I hope to write a handwritten note to someone who may feel lonely.  In this way I’ll live into the caring relationships which is a mark of Vital Congregations.  (If you have suggestions of people to whom I might write, send me an email to the address below, with a bit of information about the recipient and their address.)

It’s not too late to come up with a Lenten practice.  How might the Matthew 25 initiative shape your Lent?  Remember Lenten practices are not an end unto themselves; they are a means by which the Holy Spirit equips us to join Christ’s mission to the world.

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive

Muskingum Valley Moderator Rick Hastings Offers Hope

Do you need a word of affirmation as we continue to navigate through the pandemic? Moderator of the Muskingum Valley Presbytery, Rev. Rick Hastings, may have just what you need. In this uplifting video that you can watch here or below. Rick talk about a book that speaks to him during this time by C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, and brings out new meaning about what it means to lead, and live with joy during a time that feels like we have little. He reminds us that if we place Christ at the center of our lives we can still bring joy to our communities during this time by proclaiming Jesus.

LeaderWise Workshops To Be Offered throughout the Synod

In 2021, the Synod has purchased a range of services from LeaderWise, a Christian organization helping with leadership development in churches and ministries. The Synod will offer multiple sessions of boundaries training in 2021 designed to fulfill any presbytery’s requirements, as well as other workshops designed to equip you as a leader in your presbytery, church, or other place of ministry.  Watch this space for more details!

“I’m Not Ready Yet” Town Hall

Join Thrivent and Synod partner Samaritas for an important virtual town hall meeting on February 24th that talks about the difficulties of moving into a senior living community. Here is the description of the town hall on the Samaritas website:

How many times have you said, “I’m not ready yet”? We can apply that phrase to many things in life, especially when deciding if it is time to downsize the family home and make a big move into a senior living community.

Samaritas one of Michigan’s largest faith-based health and human services non-profit organizations is joining forces with Thrivent to host a virtual panel discussion to highlight and explore the benefits, fears, reasons, hesitations, and realities of moving into a senior living community.

Panelists will include representatives from Thrivent, Samaritas, Oasis Senior Living and the Area Agency on Aging. Contact Lauren Brosch at for more information.

No products will be sold.

For more information or to register please visit the registration page here.

Proposed Guidelines for Service on Synod Permanent Judicial Commission

Provided by Sharon Moore, Stated Clerk

Service on Synod PJC

In response to very good questions about participation on a Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) I provide the following information.

  1. What are the responsibilities of our elected members of the PJC?
    • According to the Book of Order (BOO), the elected members of the PJC are part of the church’s exercise of authority via church discipline. D-1.0101 BOO. The members are responsible for overseeing the church’s disciplinary process when necessary.  While PJC operates in a manner similar to secular judicial systems it is not a substitute, and in fact it acts beyond what the secular judicial system can do.  This system exists to honor God; to preserve the purity of the church; to achieve justice and compassion for all participants; to correct or restrain wrongdoing in order to bring members to repentance and restoration; to uphold the dignity of those who have been harmed by disciplinary offenses; to restore the unity of the church by removing the causes of discord and division; and to secure the just, speedy, and economical determination of proceedings.
    • One of the key functions of the members of the PJC is to be sure that in all respects, all participants are accorded procedural safeguards and due process.
  1. When does the Synod PJC meet?
    • It meets when called by the Stated Clerk of the Synod; usually because a complaint was filed and there is need for adjudication of a disciplinary or remedial matter.
  1. Training of PJC
    • When a complaint is filed the members are notified and called to attend a meeting to elect the Moderator/Vice-Moderator, Clerk/Vice-clerk for the PJC.
    • Next the members are provided a training session to inform and/or refresh on the procedural and substantive rules that apply for a particular matter. This training is conducted by the staff of the Office of General Assembly.
    • If in the course of adjudication the members are unclear on substantive or procedural matters additional training/guidance will be provided to allow the members to reach a decision.
  1. Right now there is a remedial case pending before the Synod PJC, the new members would not participate in that adjudication; but would be called for any future matters.
  1. Some further points of clarification about PJC terms
    • The term of each member of a permanent judicial commission shall be six years. During that term a member may not be called to serve actively at all.  D-5.0102 BOO.
    • If the member’s term is expired, but there is a matter presented to the Synod PJC and a quorum cannot be obtained, “the stated clerk shall immediately select, by rotation from that roster, a sufficient number of former members of the permanent judicial commission to constitute a quorum.” D-5.0206a BOO.  This means that while a member’s six year term may have expired with/without adjudicating a matter, that member could be called back to serve because circumstances show there are not enough current PJC members to satisfy the number for a quorum.
  1. In a “post-Covid” era there may be the need to travel as part of service on PJC. Since meetings are scheduled by the PJC members there is room to set a boundary for no nighttime travel, or other travel restrictions.  Also, with the flexibility we have learned in the Covid era if travel is a limitation to participation I believe that can be negotiated/navigated in favor of participation.

Commissioner Orientation Videos

We had a lot of fun getting to know our new commissioners and having some meaningful fellowship between the Synod staff, AC, and commissioners. One of the highlights of the meeting were these wonderful videos we would like to share with you! It is such a joy to get to know our presbytery and we are so grateful for all the work you do. We are excited to have more meetings like this and pray that God continues to bless them. We look ahead with joyful anticipation at the work and ministries God will set before us in the new year! Please click here to see the videos. Please note they are the most recent 5 short videos in the playlist.

From the Interim Executive….

From the Interim Executive,

On Saturday I led a workshop for a church in Lake Huron Presbytery on how to get change actually to take place in a congregation. We discussed, among other things, “destination postcards,” an idea from Switch, a book by Dan and Chip Heath. Leaders articulate destination postcards as a way to captivate the imagination and motivation of their organization.

A church might choose “Our members positively impact their families, friends, and coworkers because of the Gospel,” or something more specific, like “Our worship services will be as meaningful to visitors and guests as they are to our members.” With a clear destination postcard, leaders can then work to make their hopes come true.

Editorial credit: Designsoul /

Today on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I think about one of the greatest destination postcards of all time:  his “I Have a Dream” speech, where he articulates his hopes for the beloved community.  If you have not listened to it recently, this video (45) Kids Recite ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech | All Def – YouTube, made by children proclaiming excerpts of the speech, might be the best three minutes you spend today.

What can we do to bring King’s dream another step closer to reality?  I’m praying and wrestling with how the Synod can work with presbyteries and churches in their work for racial justice, and I’m also thinking about the concrete steps I as an individual can take.

How will you and your church help King’s—and God’s—destination postcard for our racially-divided society come true?

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive

Synod Coordinating Lenten Worship Videos

Many thanks to all of you who filled out a survey about the worship services that the Synod coordinated for Advent!  Your responses indicated that you would find Lenten worship services helpful, so your presbytery and synod leaders are putting together online worship experiences to give church staff and volunteers a week off, to serve as personal devotions for you, and to give you new ideas for worship.

These worship services have been selected according to which dates you indicated would be the most helpful.

Ash Wednesday (2/17/21)

coordinated by Cincinnati Presbytery

Watch the Service on YouTubeDownload ServiceINSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING ASHES

Lenten Sunday (for use any of the Sundays in Lent (2/21 through 3/21)

coordinated by Maumee Valley Presbytery

Watch the Service on YouTubeWatch the Sermon on YouTubeDownload ServiceDownload Sermon and ReadingsService Bulletin

Maundy Thursday (4/1/21)

coordinated by the Presbytery of Lake Michigan

Available no later than March 19th

Good Friday (4/2/21)

coordinated by the Synod of the Covenant and the Michigan Black Presbyterian Caucus

Watch the Service on YouTubeDownload ServiceService Bulletin

The Sunday after Easter (4/11/21)

coordinated by Eastminster Presbytery and the Presbytery of the Western Reserve

Watch the Service on YouTubeWatch the Sermon on YouTubeDownload Sermon and ReadingsDownload Full ServiceService Bulletin

Contact Interim Executive Chip Hardwick with any questions: or 248-729-2415.

Coaching Available for Church Leaders in New Staff Positions during the Pandemic

SOLT (The Synod of Lincoln Trails) has created an opportunity for pastors to receive short term, small group coaching under the umbrella topic of serving in a new call during COVID. Eligible folks are pastors (ordained or commissioned, first call or seasoned, congregational or chaplaincy-based, etc.) who began a call between October 2019 and June 2021. Slots are going fast so register soon (registration for course further down).

This will be a valuable coaching course for an unprecedented time. All community leaders are trying to figure out how to navigate these new waters the pandemic has us in. It is a special and unique duty that pastors and other clergy have when they are sought out for answers to tough questions, and expected to lead those they serve through these waters with a hopeful and righteous disposition.

If you are such a clergy person we want to support you in taking this valuable course by giving you $100 for the $250 course. Please note we will not register you for the course itself but will give all qualifying applicants $100 to put towards the course.

In order to qualify for this scholarship you MUST:

  • Be a Teaching Elder, CRE, or Chaplain
  • Have started a new call/began a new ministry during the Pandemic
  • Belong to a Presbytery within the bounds of The Synod of the Covenant

Once you have submitted your application for the scholarship we will verify eligibility with your presbyter, and we will follow up with you after the coaching event to confirm your participation.

Here are a few details about the course itself:

You can register for the program here.

The coaching program has three elements, all via ZOOM:

  1. It starts February 4th (1-3 pm Eastern) with a two-hour coaching and resilience workshop led by Rev. Dr. Laurie Ferguson.
  2. It then moves into 5 90-minute small group coaching sessions with peers, and with an International Coach Federation-trained, Presbyterian coach, every 2-3 weeks.
  3. There will be a final “reflection, wrap up and next steps” session at the end.

We hope you will take interest in this valuable coaching course. You only need to meet the criteria to receive the scholarship so if you want to attend please apply for the scholarship!

Apply Here

Presbytery Leaders Offer Reflections in the Aftermath of the Tragedy at the Capitol

Matt Skolnik, General Presbyter of Muskingum Valley Presbytery, provided a thought-provoking article in the Presbyterian Outlook, entitled “Order in Chaos:  Participating in God’s Ordering from our Anguish.”

Rev. Anne Hebert, Moderator of Mackinac Presbytery, offered a prayer for her presbytery, written by George MacLeod of the Iona Community in Scotland called “An Earth Redeemed.”


An Earth Redeemed

When we partake of the living bread and the living vine, our triune God,
help us to know ourselves to have part in an earth redeemed;
Help us to know ourselves to have part in new life blood for the world:
to cling together as branches to the vine,
to give both shade and refreshment to the world.
Help us to be Thy healing spirit in the world
till all shall be pervaded.
So shall we freshly partake;
So shall we freshly purvey;
So shall we freshly be Thy life of love
till Thou shall come to judge.

God the Creator, Thou hast made the bread.
Christ the Redeemer, Thou hast changed it.
Holy Spirit, the Binder, Thou dost convey it:
bread for our touching, food for our soul:
Even as lives are bound together in Thee.

God the Creator, thou hast made the vine.
Christ the Redeemer: though hast changed it.
Holy Spirit, the Binder, Thou dost convey it:
the cup from hand to hand, the life blood from heart to heart:
Even as our lives are bound together in Thee.

God the Creator, Thou hast changed us.
Christ the Redeemer, Thou hast changed us.
Holy Spirit, the Binder, Thou dost keep us changed:
Even as our lives are bound together in Thee.