By Craig Kephart
In mid-April, Washington Presbytery members gathered for an evening of presbytery celebration under the theme “Stronger Together.” Buzzing with laughter and conversation, the guests – more than 200 – filled the spacious Christian Life Center at Thomas Presbyterian Church in Eighty Four, PA, to enjoy marvelous fellowship, music and singing, and a relaxing, catered buffet dinner. Old friends were reunited and re-acquainted, and several new friendships began.
Displays highlighted several of the mission projects undertaken by the presbytery. Those included Syrian refugee relief efforts through the Presbyterian Mission Agency, flood clean-up buckets shipped to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Resurrection Power and its work with substance abuse, Christian partnership with SouthWest Bethel Synod in Ethiopia, and the camp and retreat ministries of Pine Springs Camp in Jennerstown, PA. It was an entire evening of celebrating God’s grace and goodness exhibited through the presbytery’s many ministries of “Growing Leaders, Challenging Congregations and Engaging Communities.”
Testimonies filled the program, delivered in respective categories from the presbytery’s mission statement. Rev. Curtis Paul, a “son” of Washington Presbytery and now a pastor in the nearby Presbytery of Redstone, told of his growing-up years in Sunday School, his nurture under the shepherding of local and regional presbyters, and his growth in leadership. Ruling Elder John Tilley, a longtime leader at Faith United Presbyterian Church, told of his congregation’s challenges when an old, downtown building was proving too costly to repair. Moving their church to a new location and a new building became necessary and prudent. Having taken up that challenge in the recent past, Faith Church today thrives with fresh leadership and renewed energies.
CRE Patricia Schaefer brought testimony from her Robinson Presbyterian Church congregation. Engaging schools and neighborhoods surrounding its countryside setting has created vitality and participation for Robinson Church in several helping ministries. Rev. Dr. Stuart Broberg then capped the activities with a summary challenge for the presbytery to be “Stronger Together for the Years Ahead.”
Unity and energy were the aims, and the Celebration Dinner Planning Committee believes those goals were met and surpassed in the course of a truly enjoyable evening together, according to one Planning Committee member.
“It provided a great opportunity to bring our churches together for more than just another meeting,” said CRE Gary Gibson. “I was very proud to be a part of the planning committee that brought this event to our presbytery.”
An array of donated silent auction items and a gift baskets raffle netted approximately $11,000 to strengthen Washington Presbytery’s mission commitments, since leaders from across the presbytery covered all costs associated with the dinner.