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PHEWA Ministry Awards Celebration at the 220th General Assembly

A man at a podium

Newly-elected Moderator Neal Presa.

A capacity crowd of over one hundred gathered on Monday, July 2nd, in the accessible gymnasium of the historic downtown Smithfield United Church of Christ in Pittsburgh, PA to honor individual Presbyterians and congregations who call their faith into action through exemplary outreach ministries.  In PHEWA tradition, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres were served at this dinnertime gathering, to keep ticket costs low. 

It was a privilege to be able to recognize and celebrate those involved in ministries that are making a real difference, as the work seems never ending, short-term results are rarely apparent, and work on the margins can be lonely and isolating.  These are the individuals and congregations that help to remind us of God’s call to love kindness and to do justice.  You are now part of the PHEWA family of connectedness, and we give thanks for you!

On behalf of PHEWA’s Presbyterian Association for Community Transformation (PACT) network , the Rev. John Scotland presented the 2012 Community Transformation Award to the Downtown Presbyterian Church of Nashville, TN, where their website reads, “One of the best things about DPC is the abundance of opportunities to get involved and make a difference. Take your Christianity from abstract concept to practical reality.  Not only will you change the lives of those around you... but also yourself!  Here are a few ideas on how to get involved…”  With much humility, Jim and Faye Dickson accepted the award on behalf of their 87 member congregation.  You will marvel at the lives that the Downtown Presbyterian Church community impacts and the breadth of ministry undertaken.  Read about them.

George Kerr, Co-Moderator of PHEWA’s Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN) presented their 2012 Faith In Action Award to the Rev. Paul Barrett, accepting on behalf of Mercer Island Presbyterian Church (MIPC), Mercer Island, WA.  In nominating MIPC for this Award, the Rev. Eliana Maxim, Associate Executive Presbyter for Multicultural Ministries, the Presbytery of Seattle, wrote, “MIPC has served those living with HIV and AIDS through hands-on efforts such as preparing meals, raising funds and nurturing relationships. Yet they have also been compelled to raise awareness and visibility of the church’s care and concern for this issue as one rooted in our reformed theology and the very identity of Jesus Christ…   But perhaps nothing is more indicative of Mercer Island Presbyterian Church’s commitment to dispelling fear and promoting education and understanding of HIV/AIDS than their unanimous calling of Rev. Barrett 7 years ago, first as Associate Pastor and recently as co-senior Pastor. Rev. Barrett lives openly as an HIV positive individual. Married with a young daughter, Rev. Barrett has, in effect, promoted MIPC as a safe and nurturing faith community for those in the HIV/AIDS community. His leadership has been marked by compassion and a call to action to serve those who have marginalized and/or discriminated because of their health status.”  We are grateful for the witness and service of the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church community.  Read more.

For PHEWA’s Presbyterian Association of Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM) network, the Rev. John VanderZee presented the 2012 John Rea Thomas Award to the Rev. Larry VandeCreek, D.Min., BCC in recognition of his distinguished service in the ministries of chaplaincy, clinical pastoral education, and spiritual care research.  Larry was Founding Director of the Department of Pastoral Research at The Health Care Chaplaincy in New York City from 1998 to 2001.  Before that he served as Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Ohio State University Medical Center, a post he held for 23 years.  A nationally known author and speaker on chaplaincy and health care, Larry was editor of the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy and the Journal of Health Psychology and personally  wrote or edited over 90 publications; a small sampling of his writings include, “Professional Chaplaincy: Its Role and Importance in Healthcare,” “The Chaplain-Physician Relationship,” “Spiritual Care for Persons With Dementia: Fundamentals for Pastoral Practice,” “Parish nurses, health care chaplains, and community clergy: navigating the maze of professional relationships,” and “Understanding Suicide and Its Bereavement: A Primer for Chaplains.”

Dr. VandeCreek is noted for his work in introducing the value of quantitative and qualitative approaches to research in pastoral care and counseling, with the hope to “inform hospital chaplains, congregational pastors, hospital personnel, and theological students on ways in which knowledge gained from carefully designed research can enhance their project of care.” Among the areas his research has addressed are the role of spirituality in terminally ill hospitalized patients, the demonstrated helpfulness of prayer in health crisis, the possible impact of hope among women with breast cancer, the role and impact of chaplaincy services in general hospitals, and other studies demonstrating a variety of relationships between spirituality and health care. You are widely respected in your fields, Dr. VandeCreek, and we are grateful for this opportunity to recognize your service.

The Rev. David E. Young, Co-Moderator of PHEWA’s Presbyterians for Disability Concerns (PDC) network presented the 2012 Nancy Jennings Award to the Rev. Woody Berry, who accepted for the Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church in Lexington, KY. In 2005 this congregation formed their Inclusive Ministries Subcommittee, for the purpose of helping children with special needs and their families enjoy worship, Sunday School and fellowship activities as respected and equal members of the community of faith.  The subcommittee worked hard at offering opportunities for all members of Maxwell Street to get to know one another in order to better understand and respect the needs of all congregants.  In 2007, a gift was received from a church member, in honor of her brother with Down syndrome, also a church member, who had been well loved and cared for by the congregation. The Warren Beard Foundation was established “in honor of Warren Beard, a beloved child of God and of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church in whose memory we carry out Inclusive Ministries.”  With money from this fund, the subcommittee began work with the University of Kentucky educational department in matching special education teachers-in-training with children in the church for the special care they needed.  The relationships have extended far beyond Sunday morning, with relationships that have included afternoon and summer care.

This nomination was submitted by the Rev. Rev. Barrett Milner, Associate Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington, who served as a Seminary Intern at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church.  He closed his nomination by saying, “For their designation as a church of mission, inclusion, and diversity, and their work to bring these words to life in their church and community, I hope you will lift them up as an example of the best our churches can be.”  Amen.  Read more about the transformational ministries of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church.

Adding to PHEWA’s celebration of transformational servants, PHEWA Board member, the Rev.  Bob Brashear, recognized Michael Adee for his faithful service to PHEWA and to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and all gathered offered to Michael a PHEWA blessing as he moves on from 3 years of service as Executive Director and Field Staff for More Light Presbyterians, to create a new global LGBT faith project through the Horizons Foundation.

Miguel Carlin of Presbyterians for Disability Concerns gave the Benediction to send us out into the world inspired to continue on.  Join in the work of PHEWA, and promote us to your friends and colleagues, by taking out a membership here.

Read more about us at our PHEWA Community site.