Carry Your Cross, 153rd, CC, Castle

You Are Carrying Your Cross

One of the saints that served and thrived in Palo Duro Presbytery, the great Rev. Dr. and Professor Fane Downs who died in Kerrville before the Pandemic, had this cross on her desk that was passed along to me.

By the way, please read her obituary from a few years ago:

She was/is/always will be eternal and a powerful mentor by the shadow of her life. Well, this cross. It brings memories and contemplation. Well, it is Peruvian in nature that shows men and women carrying a cross. Ten of them. They’re picking up the cross and traveling forward with it. Which has me thinking. Today is dark and rainy, and I’m looking at this cross. And these words flow from Mark 8:34 “[they] take up their cross and follow me.”

As we talk and visit, it is so clear that you are beautifully and back-breakingly doing just this. YOU are picking up your cross and following Him. YOU are moving forward. You are on the go even with crosses heavy on your shoulders. You are doing a tremendous leadership role to progress the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Always forward. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Scott Campbell, Executive Presbyter
Our Palo Duro Presbytery mission is only possible because of the heart-full giving of churches and individuals like you.

What Happened at Presbytery

The 153rd Meeting of Palo Duro Presbytery was held on September 30 through October 1, 2022, at First Presbyterian Church, Sweetwater. Words cannot describe the joy of gathering in person after over two years of meeting by Zoom – the last in person meeting was January 2020. In addition to good fellowship, much was accomplished. Here are the highlights: The theme was “Welcome Home NOROC.” We celebrated the past success of NOROC, originally established to provide care for at-risk children in Romania, and now expanded to provide aid for refugees of the conflict in Ukraine. Guests at the meeting included co-founders of NOROC, Dr. Fred White and Carolyn White, members of First Central Presbyterian Church, and Professor Petru Solcă, president of NOROC in Romania; Rich Schempp, Chair of the NOROC USA Board; and Carol Schempp, recently retired as mission co-worker with NOROC were acknowledged. Dr. White proclaimed the Word at worship Friday night. The OOW is on the website. Palo Duro increased its commitment to NOROC by creating in partnership with NOROC Board of Directors, evangelist mission co-worker position that will be filled by an ordained minister. That person will be Kristen Harris. She was questioned and unanimously voted in to fill in the role. To support this work, we challenge all Palo Duro churches to commit to financially supporting this mission. Ordination date is tentatively set for Sunday, November 20, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. at First Central Presbyterian Church, located at 400 Orange Street in Abilene, Texas 79601.The presbytery honored Rev. Dr. Janice Six and Rev. Robert Fields on their retirement with the esteemed status “Honorably Retired”. Our former Cursillo band played through it the two days.

The presbytery recognized the new Palo Duro Presbytery Crisis Response Team, which completed training the week of September 28 – October 30, 2022, at First Presbyterian Church in Sweetwater, Texas and this is our first group of volunteers right before the meeting. Like NOROC, this is a presbytery-wide mission that will respond to pastoral care to victims of disaster and crises. Pastor Joe Gambill extended an invitation to all persons to volunteer for the next round of training. Rev. Scott Hill spoke about CRT.

Minimum Terms of Call for 2023 were approved. The total effective salary for ministers is now $60,000. The presbytery also recommended that current ministers receive a cost-of-living increase of $1,800 and current CP’s receive a one-time cost-of-living increase of $1,000.

A report on General Assembly 225 was heard, and we thanked our commissioners, Rev. Becky Fox of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lubbock, Texas, Rev. Bill Core of First Central Presbyterian Church, Abilene, Texas, and YAAD Zuzu Shelton. The presbytery celebrated the adoption 2 overtures originating in Palo Duro. First, we approved a significant amendment to the Book of Order, described in overture MC-08 (“On Clarifying the Intent of G-2.1001 Regarding Use of Commissioned Pastors.”), PDP authored and championed this overture; it gained 96% of the GA floor vote. PDP shined at GA. If approved by the remaining presbyteries, it will allow the commissioning of CP’s to serve more than one church, one opportunity, one time, or an entire Presbytery based on Missional needs of the Presbytery. The GA also adopted INT-08. “On Responding to the Human Needs of Those Affected by the Violence in Cameroon,” calling for peaceful resolution of the conflict in Cameroon and requesting the denomination to be active in peace-making efforts. This overture was first proposed by the congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lubbock for the last GA in 2020, but was postponed until this GA. Our presbytery is blessed to have several members in different congregations from the nation of Cameroon. Please call PDP or your COM liaison for questions.

Saturday the meeting began with Carolyn White giving her testimony of faith through a NOROC lense. CCE SarahLee Morris led us in our trademark bible study.

The next presbytery meeting, the 154th Presbytery, will be held by Zoom in January 2023. The 155th Presbytery will be in-person. We are still seeking an invitation to host this meeting.

A Note from Days of Grace Chapel Update

This update is in response to some questions posed at our most recent Palo Duro Presbytery gathering in Sweetwater. Questions raised were: (1) Did First Presbyterian Church of Colorado City close? and (2) Did FPC Colorado City leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)? The simple answer to both questions is an emphatic “NO”. But let’s review the past few years and some changes which have occurred at First Presbyterian Church of Colorado City dba Days of Grace Chapel.

The initial discussion of the possible sale of all or part of the old church building was held during a stated session meeting in November, 2017. It had been about ten years since the old sanctuary had been used. Gas leaks, an elevator in disrepair, and a smaller number of worshippers were all contributing factors which led to this discussion about priorities and stewardship of the congregation’s resources, both physical and financial. In late 2019, after the building had been listed by a realtor for over a year, a buyer came forward and an offer was accepted for the entire church building and property located at 444 Chestnut in Colorado City. The entire church campus was sold to a family to use as their residence. The property has been maintained well by this family and is now on the local property tax roll. The congregation then made plans to rent space for worship and study in The Kelley Building, previously an elementary school, at 1435 Walnut St. in Colorado City (about 13 blocks away from the old building). A decommissioning service/celebration was held jointly with FPC Snyder following the final worship service in the old building on Sunday, February 2, 2020. It should be noted that the churches in Snyder and Colorado City have been sharing a pastor as yoked congregations for many years.

In late March 2020, a three-year lease agreement was signed for the space in the Kelley Building and renovations began using some of the proceeds from sale of the old building. Renovations started just as the Covid 19 epidemic swept the nation. Joint worship with First Presbyterian Church of Snyder by Zoom was initiated, then transitioned to worship on the parking lot in Snyder during the spring/summer of 2020. As renovations progressed, the congregation made the decision to assume the name “Days of Grace Chapel” when worship begins in the rented space. An assumed name certificate (dba) was obtained from the State of Texas which is good for ten years and is renewable. The reasoning behind the assumed name was basically this: the congregation was the oldest in Colorado City, attendance had dwindled to two active members, it was a time of transition between pastors, and God was offering the opportunity for a fresh start. Quick history note here: the first organized worship service in Colorado City was held in a saloon in January, 1881 and was led by a Presbyterian minister and school teacher from Mississippi. The saloon was followed by a dugout, a tent, and a school building before the first church building was erected in May, 1891. So, with that kind of history, assuming a new name in a town where few people could spell the name “Presbyterian” didn’t seem like much of a stretch!

A new logo was attached to the outside of the rented building which reads: “Days of Grace Chapel, Presbyterian Church (USA)”. The desire remains to be true to our Presbyterian roots and Reformed theology, while offering a welcoming and fresh approach to worship and study. The first worship service at Days of Grace Chapel was held in July of 2020. Members of FPC Snyder joined in the worship and dedication service, which was followed by a meal at Kelley Café, which is located in the same building, along with several other small businesses. In the following year our commissioned pastor was installed and five new members were added, two by transfer of letter and three by baptism. Worship attendance currently ranges from four to ten people on a regular basis.

Partnerships with local organizations such as school, city, ministerial alliance, and senior citizens have multiplied the efforts of a small congregation such as ours. The 8th year of partnership with Colorado ISD to provide free summer meals to local children was just completed, using three temporary employees plus about ten volunteers from the community. After assessing needs in the community, an agreement was reached in late 2020 for Days of Grace Chapel to provide an after-school program at the local elementary school. This led to a lease on a building owned by the school where Days of Grace Kids Care, Inc. opened for business on August 1, 2022. This nonprofit, full time daycare is funded in part by Days of Grace Chapel and is governed by a local board of directors. Renovations to bring this building up to current public daycare and state fire marshal licensing standards were made possible by a generous couple from our congregation who established a trust fund with the purpose of helping children about fifty years ago.

At a recent session meeting the decision was made to move worship from our current rented space at the Kelley Building to the Kids Care building located at 1111 East 9th Street in April, 2023. This move makes sense financially, but it will also allow better use of the daycare building where so many resources have already been invested. Our congregation intends to align with an interdenominational network of churches called “Messy Church” beginning in early 2023 in an effort to reach families in the community who live on the edge of organized religion (a significant part of our community). The hope is that through our interactions and connections with children and their families at Kids Care, the door to faith in Christ may be opened to them. “Messy Church” will begin as a quarterly or monthly activity and our regular worship time will move from 1pm on Sunday to later in the day to accommodate families with small children (after nap time!).

Some observations to be made from this congregation’s experiences over the past years: (1) God works in mysterious and unexpected ways, even in very small groups. (2) God provides great opportunities where great needs exist (summer food; daycare; ministerial alliance events such as nursing home worship, county jail worship, Thanksgiving and Holy Week meals and worship). (3) God places choices before His people–be discouraged because we are few or work with those who are willing (local school, other churches, community organizations).

We are fortunate to have been planted in a community where, in spite of many challenges, there are people willing to work together to achieve common goals. Our goal at Days of Grace Chapel is to grow Christ’s church. We have adopted this simple statement: “Our purpose is to love God and love others” (Jesus’ core values). If the past history of FPC Colorado City dba Days of Grace Chapel provides any indication of the future, it will be an interesting journey!

International Association of Women Awarded

Rev. Dr. Suzanne-Castle of the Jacksboro Parrish
2022 Inspirational Member/Woman of the Year Award
“Heartfelt Congratulations on your well-deserved success and achievement.”

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