(OGA) The Co-Moderators of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) have selected a new book study for Presbyterian churches. The Reverend Cindy Kohlmann and Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri have selected Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission, by Presbyterian leaders Krin Van Tatenhove and Rob Mueller.
Kohlmann says the book focuses on the initiatives that both the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly have lifted up as essential to Presbyterians.
“If our churches follow Jesus as he’s called us to do, we will be in our neighborhoods, pursuing justice for our neighbors. That ties directly to our goal to be a Matthew 25 church. The whole story of the judgement of the nations is about people feeding, clothing, visiting, healing, loving, supporting, and being present to our neighbors,” she said. “Jesus defines our neighbor as anyone whose path we cross. Vital congregations combating systemic racism and poverty, the Hands and Feet Initiative that calls us to be the hands and feet of Christ, all of these things are wrapped up in what it means to be church.”
Cintrón-Olivieri says the book is a “good starting point” for people or churches that don’t know where to start or are hesitant about working and connecting in their neighborhoods.
“One of the things I like about the book is its practical way of guiding individuals and congregations into doing work on what it means to be neighbor. It provides many tools, references to more reading, guiding questions and reflection questions and case studies, examples of what other churches are doing,” she said. “Most importantly, I think the scriptural base of what it means to be church in the context of where God has placed us, is very real in the examples that the authors give.”
Kohlmann says she’s already incorporating the book into her presentations across the country.
“The book works to transform a church from inward to outward moving,” she said. “As I visit presbyteries and talk with pastors and small groups, we have this great resource and we’re inviting the entire denomination to go on this journey together with us.”
Cintrón-Olivieri says she was inspired after reading the book because it focuses on what churches have instead of what they don’t have.
“We are sometimes too focused on past glory days instead of focusing on what we can do in the present time,” she said. “It’s important to remember our history and where we come from, but that is just a starting point.”
Shortly after their election at the General Assembly last June, Cintrón-Olivieri and Kohlmann said they wanted to continue the book study program launched by former Co-Moderators the Reverends Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston.
Both Cintrón-Olivieri and Kohlmann say there are plans to provide Spanish versions of the resources and a study guide for the book.
by Rick Jones, Office of the General Assembly communications