SYNOD ASSEMBLY HIGHLIGHTS
March 21-23, 2019
The Synod of the Covenant Commissioners gathered for our annual retreat at the Weber Conference Center, March 21-23, 2019. The focus of the retreat was discerning God’s call to the church regarding current realities and challenges impacting refugees and new immigrants in the United States and related Gospel mandate and context of ministry.
Commissioners continued discussing the Doctrine of Discovery (AKA Doctrine of Christian Discovery). The following guest speakers made effective and compelling presentations. The Rev. John Fife, former GA Moderator, who reflected on the history and relevance of the ministry of Sanctuary and a faithful response and an option for resistance by congregations and faith communities. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, JD, Immigration Attorney, explained basic definitions and challenges regarding immigration law given today’s realities. Mrs. Amanda Craft, Manager for Advocacy with PCUSA Office of Immigration Issues, presented an overview of the current realities and resources for the church. Rev. Dr. Nicklaus Schillack and Ms. Kayla Park represented and discussed the ministry of Samaritas and ways for Presbyterians to partner and serve in Michigan. Presenters also participated in a panel discussion. In attendance were also invited church leaders including a young adult Presbyterian from South Sudan, Rev. Cathy Johnson, Chaplain, Rev. James Hegedus, and Ruling Elder Johanna Jozwiak, previous Synod Moderator.
The Commissioners Retreat also included orientation by Synod Staff and Committee Moderators, and boundaries training by the Synod Vice-Moderator, Rev. Dr. Pat Megregian, and an ecumenical worship “Compline” by Sister Attracta Kelly.
Commissioners Retreat also welcomed new synod staff. Mrs. Lisa Florez is the new Mobile Health Fair Ministry Coordinator, and is currently finalizing the 2019 summer fairs schedule. You may contact Lisa at MHF@synodofthecovenant.org – Read about the MHF Ministry here.
Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman, Coordinator for the Mission to the USA, reported the synod is preparing to host five or six International Mission Partners in the Fall. This is the third of 3-year focus on Christian-Muslim Relations, and the region is Africa. Countries represented this year will include Kenya, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Rwanda. For more information contact Steve at MUSA@synodofthecovenant.org – Read about MUSA here.
Following the retreat, the Synod Assembly convened on March 23, 2019 also at the Weber Center in Adrian, Michigan. The Assembly received various reports from committees and staff, and approved a five-year Covenant Agreement with Samaritas (formerly called Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service). Some PCUSA congregations and leaders have already begun connecting and partnering with Samaritas. Read the Covenant Agreement here.
The Peacemaking and Justice Committee reported that the Welcome All Refugees program has made a financial contribution to help with the tuition for a recent asylee and has established a passthrough fund to continue the support and help support the immigration and refugee needs of other applicants within the bounds of the synod.
The Synod is upgrading the website and updating relevant information to be accessible in a couple of weeks. The update will also include a giving portal to help support the mission and ministry of the Synod.
Ruling Elder Pat McBride reported that the Presbyterian Women in the Synod of the Covenant 2019 Gathering will be held on July 12-13, 2019 at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio.
The next Synod Assembly is scheduled for August 2, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church, Maumee, Ohio, and will focus on receiving reports by presbytery moderators regarding the ministry of our eleven presbyteries.
Synod Retreat Guest Speakers – March 21-23, 2019
Rev. John M. FifeEDUCATION: B.A., Washington and Jefferson College
M.Div., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Honorary Doctorates, Macalester College and Washington and Jefferson College
Pastor Emeritus of Southside Presbyterian Church, Tucson, Arizona where he served for 35 years.
Moderator of the 204th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement in North America (1982)
Founding member of No More Deaths and Samaritans: organizations providing humanitarian aid to migrants in the Sonoran Desert.
National Council of Elders, Member of Coordinating Committee: “Organizers of the defining social justice movements of the 20th Century”
Married to Marianne for 55 years, they have 2 sons, 6 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
Mrs. Amanda Craft
Amanda supports the growth and activity of Presbyterians for Just Immigration, a campaign to mobilize congregations, mid councils, and Presbyterian-related organizations to affirm and promote the civil and human rights of immigrants. She also helps with the coordination of network training opportunities for leaders in immigration advocacy work in their regions, consistent with the mandates of the General Assembly. Previously she served as a mission co-worker in Guatemala, Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to that call, she worked for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. She has a BA in Environmental Studies from Denison University, has studied gender studies at the Protestant Center for Theological Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA). Amanda is the mother of two sons, and, along with her husband, reside in Louisville, KY.
Rev. Dr. Niklaus C. Schillack
The Rev. Dr. Nikiaus C. Schillack (Pastor Nik) serves as
the Director of Congregational Engagement for Samaritas. He was previously a pastor on the prairies of Minnesota, a pastor developer in an exurban Michigan community, and most recently a pastor and head of staff in a suburban Detroit congregation. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, his degrees include a B.B.A. in Accounting from Eastern Michigan
University, an M.Div. from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and a D.Min. in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary. Pastor Nik is married to Whitney and they have two daughters. He enjoys history, economics, gardening, travel, kayaking, and miniature golf.
MS. Kayla Park
Kayla Park is the Refugee Capacity Builder for Samaritas Refugee Youth
Services. She graduated summa cum laude from Western Michigan University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Behavioral Science. Prior to joining Samaritas, she spent a year in overseas mission work, serving with various ministries in 11 different countries on 4 continents through the World Race program. In 201 5, she was inspired to come back to Michigan to work with young refugees after witnessing a station worker in Austria who took the time to play with and put a smile on the faces of Syrian children as they, with hundreds of other refugees, waited for the trains bringing them to their new homes. Kayla loves traveling to new places, playing the piano, camping, reading, and learning about the world.
Sister Attracta Kelly, OP. JD
Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, was born in Castlerea, County
Roscommon, Ireland to a Catholic family. She was influenced by her parents, who both stood for the rights of people who were oppressed. Her father, a farmer, was active in the political struggle for an independent Ireland.
Not long after arriving in the United States at the age of 18 to visit a cousin, a Dominican sister, Attracta also entered the
Adrian Dominican Congregation. Since her profession, her ministries included teaching in Florida; serving as a principal in Montgomery, Alabama and in St. Bernard Parish (County), Louisiana; and working as a community organizer for a lowincome, African American community in Tennessee.
As a member of the General Council for the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 1986 to 1992, Sister Attracta’s life changed. During the time of the civil war in Guatemala and El Salvador, the General Council was asked to provide temporary housing for refugees while they sought asylum in Canada. Sister Attracta realized that the best way to help immigrants was through the legal system. While attending Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., Sister Attracta served as an intern with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).
From 1997 to 1999, she worked for Jesuit Refugee Services in Ireland, helping people from nations in such areas as
Africa and the former Soviet Republic to find asylum. Sister Attracta returned to the United States at the end of October, 1999, to begin an 11-year ministry as an attorney and director of the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project (ILAP) of the North Carolina Center for Justice. Because of her dedication to immigrant law, and her mentoring of numerous attorneys, the Carolina Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) established a scholarship to their national convention in her name.
After serving from 2010 to 2016 as Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Sister Attracta opened the Adrian Dominican Sisters Immigration Assistance office at the Sisters headquarters to respond to the immigration needs of immigrants in the Adrian area.