PCUSA Invitation to PCUSA Members to Sign on to Petition against EO Barring Refugees and Against Muslims. Please sign if you haven’t yet

Dear fellow Presbyterian Church USA members, ruling elders and teaching elders,

In the midst of so much national turmoil, we have been heartened this week that we have seen so many of you fighting for the cause of justice in our churches on behalf of immigrants and refugees around world.   We write to you today as members of the PCUSA with a request for you to sign onto a petition from members of our denomination to stand up in one voice against the Executive Order suspending refugee resettlement.

It is our conviction that Jesus stood with the most vulnerable in his midst on account of his belief that God is alive in the world seeking to transform the situation. In our present circumstance as Christians it our calling and duty to stand up with the immigrant and the refugee.  We believe the executive action issued this week titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” is unconscionable and goes against all that we stand for as Christians and as citizens of the United States of America.

Kathy Doan, a ruling elder at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and Executive Director of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, wrote the linked petition to our fellow Presbyterians in Congress to oppose the Executive order suspending refugee resettlement program and discriminating against Muslims.  On Sunday morning January 29 many members of The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church signed onto the petition.  It is being mailed on January 31.

However loud our members’ voices may be, as proud members, ruling elders, and teaching elders of the PCUSA, we believe we are the most effective when we speak together united as one body of Christ. We believe that it would be most impactful if members of the PCUSA around the country would also sign on to the petition.

Would you sign onto this petition?  Would you share it with your friends and networks who are part of the PCUSA?


After you sign onto the petition, will you also contact your Congressional representative?  To be connected to your representative in Congress or the Senate, call this number (202) 224-3121.  You will need to call the line three times to be connected to your representative and two Senators.

Many thanks and blessings,

Roger J. Gench, Senior Pastor

Alice Tewell, Associate Pastor

Kathy Doan, Ruling Elder

Miriam Dewhurst, Clerk of Session

Ann Rose Davie, Parish Associate

Frances Taylor Gench, Parish Associate

Emily Rhodes Hunter, Parish Associate

Linda LeSourd Lader, Parish Associate

Matthew Schlageter, Parish Associate

Taylor Allison, NYAPC Member

Contemplative Space


From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “In contemplative practice, the incarnate spirit itself is present to receive whatever benefits are to be had from the practice. It does not have to think through everything that happens or should happen and orchestrate the good effects of meditation or yoga or chanting. To a certain extent, contemplative practices are alike in seducing thinking and willing into relative stillness so that our deeper needs can be tended. Bodily practices like yoga or meditation, centering prayer, chanting the Psalms, gardening, or drawing relax the body so that the toxins of stress, fatigue, and tension can he released, allowing the body’s energies to flow more freely. Practices also release discursive reasoning from the burden of micromanagement and in this way permit the body to accept a deeper restructuring. The body digests what has happened to it, loosening habitual attachments and passions, purifying the “rubbish” that accumulates within us and allowing consciousness to flow more easily. The opposite can also be said. Contemplative practices allow the stillness of the divine to work in us, less impeded by the mind. They remind us that we are not in charge of what happens but that when we relax into whatever practices are helpful to us, we give more space to the efficacy of grace. The aim of contemplative desire is the gradual recovery of freedom to love. Through the transformation of desire, we walk a path that integrates all of the parts of us and engage practices that energize our spirit. Our bodies burn off obstacles so the hold of passions can he weakened. We come nearer to our vocations, both the vocation of all beings to incarnate Divine Eros and our own unique form of that incarnation, whatever it is.”


Easter Fruit

415058_3475836379717_1239811495_oFrom Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching: “The capacity to be happy is very precious. Someone who is able to be happy even when confronted with difficulties, has the capacity to offer light and a sense of joy to herself and to those around her. When we are near someone like this, we feel happy, also. Even when she enters hell, she will lighten up hell with the sound of her laughter… Ask yourself, “Am I like that?” At first glance, you might think not. You might have an inferiority complex, which is the second kind of pride. Please …look deeply into your store consciousness to accept that the seed of happiness, the capacity to love and to be happy, is there. Practice joy. You may think that washing dishes is menial work, but when you roll up your sleeves, turn on the water, and pour in the soap, you can be very happy. Washing the dishes mindfully, you see how wonderful life is. Every moment is an opportunity to water the seeds of happiness in yourself. If you develop the capacity to be happy in any surroundings, you will be able to share your happiness with others.”

This teaching corresponds to Paul’s Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-25: By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”


Compassionate Inquiry

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You: “It’s hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at the human predicament. Here we are with so much wisdom and tenderness, and—without even knowing it—we cover it over to protect ourselves from insecurity. Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego….We need to be told that fear and trembling accompany growing up and that letting go takes courage. Finding the courage to go to the places that scare us cannot happen without compassionate inquiry into the workings of ego. So we ask ourselves, “What do I do when I feel I can’t handle what’s going on? Where do I look for strength and in what do I place my trust?” The Buddha taught that flexibility and openness bring strength and that running from groundlessness weakens us and brings pain. But do we understand that becoming familiar with the running away is the key? Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well.”



469104_3496206288952_1271896250_oFrom Wendy Farley’s Wounding and Healing of Desire: “We may believe desire for our Beloved should itself automatically clean us of all of our obscurations, but there is no direct route that bypasses the wounds of our psyches. Contemplative desire is like an athlete, intent on the Olympics. An athlete may wish an injury were gone or had never happened. Despair over the injury guarantees defeat, but to suppress knowledge of an injury can give it the power to become permanently debilitating. The only way to remain an athlete is to work with doctors and trainers carefully and skillfully, neither despairing over nor ignoring the injury. In this way, the injury will be transformed so that it does not exclude the athlete from the games. It can even happen that the courage to press one’s limit in ways that risk injury, or something in the injury itself, or the process of healing, or the tenacity sustained throughout every aspect of practice, conspire to contribute even greater prowess than if no injury ever occurred.”


The Soft Spot

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places that Scare You: [The] “bodhichitta is capable of transforming the hardest of hearts and the most prejudiced of minds. Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’. Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlighten,’ or ‘completely open.’ Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love….Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion – our ability to feel the pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. We put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are build on the deep fear of being hurt.   These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, arrogance and pride. But fortunately for us, the soft spot –our innate ability to love and to care about things – is like a crack in the walls we erect….With practice we can learn to find this opening.”


Easter Contemplation

IMG_0664From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “Buddhists seek enlightenment, and Christians long for union with God. These supply us with images of a contemplative path that has discernable stages and ends up someplace, a journey that concludes when we find ourselves snug in a castle, the strains of the journey safely behind us. But Buddhists and Christians also describe stages within the enlightened or united condition, and they tend to postpone the perfect realization of these states to another life or another mode of existence in “heaven.” The idea of an ending or conclusion provides us with a more definite shape for our desire and criteria for our “advancement,” such as it is, along the path. The fruits of contemplation are said to include equanimity, deep peace, joy, undisturbed compassion, and love. In the confusions of life and the disorientation of contemplation, these markers can be helpful. If we find ourselves hating ourselves or others more than ever, this is a signal that perfect possession of enlightenment continues to elude us. But even if there is a consummation of the contemplative path, it is the path itself that we walk, step by step. As we walk we should not expect that the dawning of contemplative desire transforms us into peaceful, loving, joyous, calm people. In fact, the opposite experience is more likely to arise at various moments (or years or decades) of the path. It is crucial to remember that contemplation is a path because this allows us to attend to the place we are right now…Contemplation stills thoughts and emotions so that we can become more conscious of dimensions of mind beneath the grunge and distraction of everyday day life. Even sitting still for thirty seconds and focusing awareness on our breath can clear out an excess of anxiety, restoring a level of calm and confidence that seems disproportionate to the simplicity of what we have done. Various contemplative practices assist us in deepening this calm.”