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Always In Pursuit

(This is part 1 of a series on the mission statement of the Presbytery of Chicago)

Presbytery of Chicago Mission Statement 

Pursuing worship, service, and communities of justice, we are the Presbytery of Chicago, flourishing together by relating people, neighbors, and churches to one another in Christ Jesus.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12

When running track in high school and college, I was taught to run through the finish line, not just to run to it. The goal is to run through the tape at the end. This means leaning forward and forcing the tired legs to lift higher and the fatigued arms to pump faster. This is why athletes often fall over the finish line in track meets as they are leaning forward and striving until the end.

This is also why “pursuing” is the first word in the mission statement. It means we have not finished the race, but are still running, striving, and pushing for excellence in worship, service, and communities of justice. To be in pursuit is to declare we are still becoming, we are reformed and still reforming. In what ways is your congregation striving to improve worship, service, and participation in communities of justice?

Worship, service, and being in communities of justice involves interaction with others. The mission statement values relationships and connections. Being church is communal. Being the Presbytery of Chicago is connectional. How is your church connecting with its neighbors? What communities beyond your neighborhood does your church connect with?

In addition to connecting with local communities, the mission statement of the Presbytery of Chicago must address broader issues in Chicagoland. Pursuing communities of justice is to strive and be a part of spaces that stand against racism, classism, violence, and the destruction of the environment. These are values of the Presbytery of Chicago, and to be a member of the presbytery means holding these values while connecting with others in communities of justice who share these same values. What issues of justice does your congregation address?

My prayer this Lenten season is that each session takes seriously what it means to be in pursuit of worship, service, and communities of justice. Amen.

Craig Howard

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Knowing When to Hold Them


At the past Presbytery Assembly I shared a new Mission Statement for the presbytery:

Pursuing worship, service, and communities of justice, we are the Presbytery of Chicago, flourishing together by relating people, neighbors, and churches to one another in Christ Jesus.

Our vision is simple. Pursuing, Flourishing, and Relating. It is through these activities we are the presbytery of Chicago.

I will take the next few blogs to unpack the mission statement. The goal is to have a statement that energizes our congregations and committees. The mission statement is connected to our commitment to be a Matthew 25 presbytery. The Presbyterian Mission Agency describes Matthew 25 as a bold vision. To have energizing and bold vision is important for leadership. But there is another aspect of leadership we must also consider as we exit the pandemic and live into a new church reality. This may also be a time for leaders to hold their congregations and institutions.

In the Harvard Business Review article, The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership, Gianpiero Petriglieri describes the leadership posture of holding. “It describes the way another person, often an authority figure, contains and interprets what’s happening in times of uncertainty. When a leader is holding, “They think clearly, offer reassurance, orient people, and help them stick together. That work is as important as inspiring others.”

The concept of holding is taken from studies that show that children who are held grow up to become healthy adults who can respond in positive ways to difficult circumstance. There are times parents must hold a child and create a holding environment to provide comfort and confidence in times of crises. Petriglieri takes this concept of interpersonal holding and expands it to institutional holding, which includes policies that promote equality and fairness, promotes inclusive dialogue and communication that brings people together instead of polarizing them.

Holding is what I experienced when a session crafted communication to the congregation informing them that although the congregation experienced crisis, the session is responding, healing is taking place, and the church is learning from the experience. Holding is having a staff meeting after a staff member has been dismissed to remind the remaining staff that their positions are secure, the released staff is being supported, and the finance committee is working hard to make the church or institution is financially stable. This work of holding is very important. Without it, “Anxiety, anger, and fragmentation ensue.”

As we move into the vision God is calling Chicago presbytery to become, let us move forward in unison; supporting and encouraging one another, while holding each other as become presbytery together.

Rev. Craig Howard

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Films For Tough Times


Films for Tough Times — April 2023

The Mental Health Committee has selected the spiritual practice of viewing selected “Films for Tough Times.” The scarcity of mental health therapists and clinical psychologists, as America’s mental health needs have climbed, calls for the practice of self-care in not only personal relationships, but also with Planet Earth.

The newly-named Compassion, Peace, and Justice Mission notes that in order for there to be peace, there must be justice, and in order for there to be justice, there must be compassion.

In order to increase compassion-building for Earth Day (April 22),  the Mental Health Committee has chosen the viewing of The Green Planet (2022), narrated by David Attenborough. The strange and wonderful world of plants are revealed like never before. 

There are five hour-long episodes, unveiling the interdependency of humankind with nonhumankind, including Tropical Worlds, Worlds of Fresh Water, Seasonal Worlds, Desert Worlds, and Human Worlds. It is a testament to the immense complexity of our natural world.

The Biggest Little Farm (2019) is the true story of a natural farm built and based on biodiversity, with a recognition of interconnections, impermanence, and transformation.  The 8-year journey of John and Molly Chester, trading city living for 200 acres of barren farmland, reveals their dream to harvest in harmony with nature.  They provide a vital blueprint for better living and a healthier planet.

Here are the qualities used for evaluating the films for compassion-building, and for the outcomes hoped for, after watching each film:

Qualities for evaluating films include:

1. Demonstrating compassion given to all of humanity and to all of creation, so that the film makes us feel good about humanity and creation;
2. Making kindness a priority;
3. Working through uncomfortable situations, especially coming to terms with one’s own personal hurt, disappointment, and/or loneliness;
4. Having a joyful ending; and
5. Being free for borrowing at local public libraries or on YouTube.

Outcomes realized after watching a film includes these hopes:

Take note of the scene(s) which built up compassion within, for both humankind, and/or for nonhumankind.
Reflect with self, or a group, on the wisdom of compassion which could be applied to another current situation.
See, hear, and then act. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going,” wrote songwriter Kurt Kaiser in 1969: “That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread God’s love to everyone, you want to pass it on.”


​“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.”

​​Matthew 5:3 (Common English Bible) 

By the Presbytery of Chicago Mental Health Committee

Rev. Jefferson Caldeira, Moderator

Email: mentalhealth@chicagopresbyterty.org

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Pastoring for Justice & Healing in a Climate Crisis


On behalf of Creation Justice Ministries, the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, and Faith in Place, I’m reaching out to  invite your partnership in Pastoring for Justice & Healing in a Climate Crisis.”

Through this workshop at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, WI, we will explore climate impacts and ministry responses, including biblical, personal, scientific, community and congregational aspects of climate change.

We are offering this workshop for free to pastors and ministry in the region. We would like to invite you to share and support this opportunity for your leaders.

We invite your partnership in two ways: 

1. Share the attached letter or announcement below with pastors and congregations in your region. 

2. Consider being a co-sponsor by offering financial support. We have several sponsorship options listed in the attached document.

This retreat brings together the theological resources of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary with the ecumenical reach of Creation Justice Ministries, and the formational experiences developed by the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative. We begin with lunch on Monday, May 22 and continue until lunch on Wednesday, May 24. The application deadline is March 31, so please help publicize this soon! 

Creation Justice Ministries and the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative have decided to provide this event free of charge for those engaged in ministry in the region. In addition, other leaders who come with their pastor or executive are also free. Your support would help us over those costs. 

We have an exciting and diverse team of leaders from across the region. Presenters include:

· Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois

· Victoria Loorz, “wild church pastor,” “eco-spiritual director,” and author of Church of the Wild

· Dr. Timothy Eberhart, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

· Rev. Brian Sauder, President and Executive Director of Faith in Place

· Rev. Scott Onque, Pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, a 100-year-old historic church on the south side of Chicago

· Doug Kaufman, Director of Pastoral Ecology at the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative

· Avery Davis Lamb and Karyn Bigelow, co-Executive Directors of Creation Justice Ministries

More information, including biographies and a full list of presenters, is available at www.creationjustice.org/wiworkshop or contact me at ecopastor@anabaptistclimate.org.

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Church Furniture Giveaway

Hope UCC in Naperville is moving to a new space sharing location with another congregation at the end of this month. they have their altar, baptistry, pulpit, lectern, candles and 110 chairs to give away to any church that may need them. You would have to go and pick them up by the end of this month. Please get in touch with Pastor Rudra so you could arrange for a happy transition. 

Full Furniture Gallery

Rev. Dr. V. Rudra Dundzila, OCC (he, his, him)

Designated-Term Pastor

Hope UCC

1701 Quincy Ave #27

Naperville, IL 60540

Church: 630-922-0470

Pastor: 630-922-0471

Ministry days: Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays

Height x width x depth Measurements

Altar – 36” x 72” x 38.5”

Baptismal font – 36.5” x 21” x 21”

Candle holders – 40” x 8” x 8”

Podium/Pulpit – 43.5” x 22.5” x 17.75”

Lecturn –  44.5” x 19.5”x 15.5”

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Lent Practices

Letting Go

Dear loved one –
I hope you let go.
I hope you let go of holding yourself to impossible
Lower the bar. Give yourself grace.
God delights in who you are.
And while you’re at it, I hope you let go of ignoring your beauty.

The mirror is tired of your harsh words, for you are
made of star stuff and music.
You are the only you there is, and you. are. simply. stunning.

And I hope you’ll let go of certainty.
For the sun will always rise and set, and you will always be loved.

What more do we really need to know than that?
So let go of your fear.
Let go of perfection.
Let go of busyness as a sign of your self-worth,

and the notion that creativity is a luxury.

Plant roots like a redwood,
and a spine like a sunflower;
For the days are short, and you are beautiful.
I love nothing more than to see you happy.

So don’t be afraid to let go.
The only thing you cannot lose is God’s, evergreen love.

 Sarah Are, from Sanctified Art: Cultivating and Letting Go




Tell me again.
Tell me again to cultivate new life-
a life where I believe in myself,
a life where, dare I say, I love myself.

Tell me again to cultivate new life –
a life of dancing in the kitchen
and slow cups of coffee;
a life where Sabbath is viewed as a gift
as opposed to a luxury;
a life where I trust my own voice
and speak words dripping in hope,
heavy in love.

Tell me again.
Tell me again because I will forget.
Tell me again because change has never come easy.
Tell me again, because on Monday I’ll wave palms
And by Friday I’ll be at the foot of a cross.
So if you can, tell me again
Of the love that changed the world,
And my invitation to do the same.
Sarah Are, from Sanctified Art: Cultivating and Letting Go

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The Grove City College Touring Choir

The Grove City College Touring Choir, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music, Dr. Katherine Mueller, is a select group of 43 singers. The choir consists of students from a variety of academic majors and tours annually throughout various regions of the United States. The GCC Touring Choir members desire to make beautiful music using the gifts and talents given them by God. In addition to the spring tour, the choir performs for churches, colleges, and community events in the western Pennsylvania area. Past honors include performing with Keith and Kristyn Getty, the Erie Symphony Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

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Change to Pulpit Supply Rate

At the February 28 Presbytery Assembly Meeting, the assembly voted in favor of increasing the stipend for pulpit supply. The new rate is $200 plus IRS mileage reimbursement — with an additional $50 for an additional worship service the same day. It is effective as of March 1, 2023.

The presbytery’s stipend for supply preaching has not been changed in several years. However, the need for supply preachers in the presbytery’s congregations has been increasing. The Commission on Ministry recommended the change made Feb. 28, in part, to encourage more specialized ministry members and honorably retired members to serve in pulpit supply.

If you would like to be added to the list of available preachers for pulpit supply in the Presbytery of Chicago, please email Ken Hockenberry.

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Mission Initiative Grants

Did you know that the Synod of Lincoln Trails offers Mission Initiative Grants to churches in Chicago Presbytery? These one-time grants provide “seed” money (up to $1500) to help begin new congregation-based mission activities. The deadline for the next grant is March 10.

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Listening to One Another

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28th at 4:00 pm, will be our first Presbytery Assembly of 2023. In my sermon to the presbytery, I look forward to discussing a new mission and vision statement. I also look forward to challenging the presbytery to live up to its commitment to be a Matthew 25 presbytery. Matthew 25 is a vision put forward by the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It challenges each presbytery and congregation to focus on three aspirations:

Building congregational vitality

Dismantling structural racism

Eradicating systemic poverty

When it comes to the aspirations of our presbytery and life together, we agree that we want to be a relevant, vital church of Jesus Christ in our community and world. But once we move from aspirations to strategy, from the “what” to the “how” we discover areas of tension and disagreement.

For example, some believe that for their church to grow, they need a young pastor with children. Others may feel the church just needs to have yoga classes or other events open to the community. Still others think the church needs to advertise and market to attract more people. All of these are different ideas and strategies for the same aspiration of growing the church.

The real challenge for our presbytery and congregations is to have honest conversations with one another. Even when we can’t agree, it is important that we listen to one another and try to grasp the other’s point of view.

In coaching, there are three levels of listening.

Level 1: Internal Listening, where we focus on ourselves, our experiences, our opinions as they are related to what’s being said.

Level 2: Focused Listening, where we listen to the other person. Our thoughts do not enter into the conversation, but curiosity can.

Level 3: Global Listening, where we listen to what isn’t being said such as body language, the inflections and tone of their voice, their pauses, and hesitations.

So often we are stuck at level 1 of listening. But we are challenged to move from level 1 to level 3. In his effort to connect us to level 3 listening, Ron Heifetz, one of the authors of The Practice of Adaptive Challenge put it this way: “A leader needs to cultivate ways of listening to people both musically and analytically, so you can hear the songs beneath the words and detect the underlying values, loyalties and interests that are at stake and being protected.”

As we move forward and get out to see one another in this post-COVID world, let’s talk and really listen to one another. Let’s try and hear the song beneath the words and the music of the heart. May we value one another and realize that it is alright when we disagree about our aspirations and what we value. Being a Matthew 25 presbytery means learning through risk and experimentation. Through listening and hearing, we will find our way forward, together.

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