Friday, July 31, 2009

Synod School, Final Day

Another successful Synod School 2009 for the 584 participants. There were 141 faculty that helped make this year possible - thank you. 168 children were present and can you believe there were 141 first timers. Good proof that you should consider attending next year. Pictured here (LtoR): Erica Coulter (DM, Westminster, Hannah Maxa (Lenox), Sarah Yeazel (Middleton, Wi.) Paige Klinkenborg and Emma Williams (Clive, Heartland).

Speaking of 2010, plans are already taking shape for July 25-30, when we will have Convocation Speaker Dr. Rodger Nishioka, Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. Another exciting development, the evening Worship Leaders will be the Rev. Mark Davis and Rev. Barbara Nish of Heartland Presbyterian Chuch in Clive.

Our final count was over 90 members attending this year from the Des Moines Presbytery and most are pictured here. (Not picture: Rev. Scott Vandenhuevel - Creston, First; Rev. Ken Stuber - DM, First; Rev. Bill LeMosy and Paul Stanfield - DM, Knox United; Diane and Dirk Brinkmeyer - Clive, Heartland; and KayLynn Coulter - DM Westminster.)

The theme this week was "Building a Culture of Peace." And it carried through the program and worship bulletins, the t-shirt silk screens, the morning and evening worship and the convocation speakers for both adults and Junior and Senior high students. How will we take back this message to our churches? Only time will tell how we will share this spirituality of reconcilication. Using the convocation speaker, Sara Lisherness's scripture reading of 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his
appeak through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God
made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the
righteousness of God."
Thought's will continue throughout the coming weeks and year, how can we be more attentive to God's in-breaking, reconciling activity in your life? What do you need to let go of in order to have open hands that can receive the new gifts of new creation? Who do you need to regard as a child of God, beloved and cherished, with a sacred birth right? Coming together for the sake of peace is worth it. The ministry of reconciliation is not easy and sometimes can be messy. Bravery will get you through this brokenness and on to healing. Only together will we make a difference in the conflict and move towards peace.

Synod School does a lot to help start this process - now the question is how can we continue the quest for building a culture of peace in our lives, homes and churches?

Peace, Kim

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Synod School, Day 5

Have I talked yet about the food options during the week at Synod School? In the Siebens Forum at the Buena Vista University the dinning service allows us the luxury to not having to prepare a meal for one whole week. One dessert item that everyone is happy to enjoy is the ice cream machine. Chocolate, vanilla or a twist. Yum!

Pictured at right (LtoR) is Rev. Lynn Williams (Grimes, First), Matt Coulter (DM, Westminster), Rev. Calvin Hsu (Guthrie Center, First), Kim Coulter (DM, Westminster) and Rev. Dave Ewing (Beloit, Wisconsin - formerly of Dallas Center, First).

The "Developing Healthy Congregations" class is one of my afternoon classes I have been enjoying. The Rev. John Pherson, stated clerk for Prospect Hill Presbytery is the instructor. This class is based on the systems approach developed by Peter Steinke. Who incidentally will be coming to our Des Moines Presbytery in October for a two-day session on Healthy Congregations. After going through the first workbook on this program, I can highly recommend churches sending your session and lay leaders to this fall workshop.

Another class that I'm taking in the afternoons is "Biblical Storytelling". The instructor is the Rev. Doug House, pastor at Lone Rock Presbyterian Church. We studying the different ways to memorize stories and Doug recited the PC(USA) lectionary study for August 2009, including 2 Samuel, Song of Solomon, John 6 and Mark 7, all by memory! Class participants were given the Acts 1-6 scripture and were asked to select a section of verses and memorize them by the end of the week. Tomorrow will be the final class of the full reading of Acts. Wish me luck!

The evening's worship was on peace, hunger and healing. Uplifting music and songs from "Sweet the Sound" helped all generations experience worship together. Afterwards, I will teach a mini-course tonight on my "Web 1.0 and Web 2.0" class. Hopefully others who didn't make it to the daily class can learn a little about keeping up with the kids on the Internet. The evening Coffee House music is always filled with fun musical offerings from Synod School attendees. Tonight's special dance for teenagers will be their final chance to say goodbye to friends they've made this week.

All of these activities, are making memories for a lifetime.

-Kim Coulter, director of communications

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Synod School, Day 4

When it rains it pours, and this afternoon ended with glorious drops of baptizing water. Despite being stuck inside, everyone is shining. Mostly from the great fellowship of being together in this connectional church. But we also have brightness coming from the clothes.

Yes, I said the fabric of our lives this week are literally glowing from tie dye! Every day after lunch, during craft time, you can choose to silk screen a t-shirt or fabric item of your choice. Then in the evenings, after worship, you can choose to tie-dye these same items.
The Synod School committee offers a multiude of fun craft and art classes, including: Stained Glass, Introduction to Figure Drawing, Surface design Techniques for Fabulous Fabrics, Beginning Wheat Weaving, Scrapbooking 101, Wade in the Water: A Pre-introduction to Watercolor Painting, Acoustic Music Jam and Song Share, Knitting: the Next Step, and Basket Weaving 101.

This year, a new class being offered is "Kumihimo: A Three-fold Cord and Beyond." Pictured here is KayLynn Coulter and Esther Chol (Des Moines Presbytery) and Amanda Miller (Minnesota Valleys Presbytery, St. Cloud, MN), showing off their Kumihimo projects. This three-fold braid is very durable and can be worn as jewelry or for used as a lanyard for name tags or ids.

There are also opportunities for lay leaders and pastors to further their education and ministry with the following: Newly Ordained Clergy Reunion Seminar, Listening and Healing, Preaching for Commissioned Lay Pastors, Is It Time to Go? Exploring Vocational Transitions, Spirituality 101 & 201, Bible Study for Dummies, Praise and Prayer, Responding to Disaster, Perambulating Presbyterian Polity, Creative Worship, Why We Believe What We Believe, One Nation Under (insert your deity here) Separation of Church and State in American History and Law, Good vs. Evil: Movie Heroes and Villians and Biblical Ethics, Learning to Worship with Children, Transforming Conflict: Dealing with Difficult People in Your Congregation, Pre-Retirement Planning Seminar, Planning Worship as a Team, God at the Box Office, Developing Healthy Congregations, Horizons Bible Study: Joshua, Care for the Caregiver, Intersectionsof Science and Religion, Practicing the Art of Reconciliation, The Darkness and the Light, Creating a De-Stress Toolbox, Learning to Love the Old Testament, Spiritual Conversation: Sharing our Souls, Making Peace with Resource Choices, and Biblical Storytelling. Whew! And that's not all of them.

If your days are't full enough, there are also mini-course's offered in the evening: Form of Government Task Force, What is Spiritual Direction? PW Triennial Gathering Update, Yoga: Vacation Style, Star Trek, Left Behind, Cup Cake Decorating, Greek Dancing (pictured here), Conversations with Sara Lisherness, Improvisation, Happy Birthday John Calvin, AA Meeting, Hair Braiding, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Board of Pensions Update, What are Web 1.0 and Web 2.0? and a Mission Track including: Marion Medical Mission, Prospect Hill Presbytery and the Living Waters for the World, Missouri River Valley Czech Mission Network, and Des Moines Partnership with El Salvador.

Maybe next year, you'll find time to travel this way and join in the week-long fellowship of Synod School, July 25-30, 2010?

Kim Coulter, director of communications

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Synod School, Day 3

Life is always about mountains and valleys. Getting up early is not hard when you want to have warm water for the dormitory shower. But, rising early is bitter sweet when it happens during vacation.

A joy today was attending my morning class on "Creative Worship" with the Rev. Suzanne Gorhau, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Centerville. What a fast-paced class, giving wonderful attention to ideas and tips on include graphics and images for worship time. Briefly discussing the equipment necessary to make it run smoothly and yet be invisible to the congregation. I plan to contact Suzanne for a slideshow reflection she showed the class on "Being Still and in Silence", it was all done with words and white space - similar to a piece of paper that one might read. Look for it's appearance soon at a church near you!

I was able to prepare for my class "What are Web 1.0 and Web. 2.0? The Computer Revolution and How to Keep Up with the Kids" right after breakfast today. The class is pictured here. We discuss the strategies for keeping our kids safe on the Internet. Using communication, education and observation is important to help kids understand the dangers and wonders of being online.

We also explored cell phone use and how to send and read text messages. All of us agree that by the end of class we were well versed on the short acronyms that are part of texting and instant messaging. Here's one example of texting:

"mnE Ps dnt bleev der is a gNR8N d/c b/t em n thr teen.”

Translated: Many Parents don't believe there is a generation disconnect between them and their teenager.

We ended class by showing the ways to use Twitter to keep up-to-date with friends and family. If you would like to follow our tweets about our experiences, adventures and fun at Synod School, go to

Until tomorrow, I'll have more on the fun classes, like tie dying, being offered here at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa!

-Kim Coulter, director of communications

Monday, July 27, 2009

Synod School, Day 2

Editor's Note: This week, our Presbytery blogs will focus on Director of Communication Kim Coulter's experience at Synod School. This annual event is sponsored by the Synod of Lakes and Prairies each year and over 600 people attend from all over the country. Kim is attending not only as a part of her family's vacation, but she will also be teaching a class "What are Web 1.0 and Web. 2.0? The Computer Revolution and How to Keep Up with the Kids". Each day, class participants will learn about various Internet tools and how to connect with their kids and network with other Presbyterians. This blog will give you a glimpse of Kim's daily activities. Comments are welcome and encouraged. Enjoy!

Day 2, July 27
After rising in the morning, we went to the Buena Vista University Seibens Forum, an underground gathering place in the middle of campus. There we ate a hearty breakfast and some hot coffee. (New beds have a nasty habit of giving me no prolonged sleep pattern for the first night, but with a little coffee, everything becomes clearer.)

After breakfast, the morning sing-a-long, followed by worship. Then, all kids travel with their teachers to their classrooms and the adults listen to the convocation speaker Sara Lisherness who is director of Compassion, Peace and Justice for the PC(USA). (This program area includes Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the United Nations and Washington Offices, Self-Development of People, and Social Witness Ministry). Her topic and the theme for Synod School is "Building a Culture of Peace".

I attended three classes today (more on this later in the week), besides my own class that I teach. "What are Web 1.0 and Web 2.0? The Computer Revolution and How to Keep Up with the Kids." We discussed the changes in computers and the Internet since first introduced. There are 20 people in this computer lab and tomorrow I'll be talking about cell phones, texting and Instant Messaging.

In the evening, our worship time was lead by "Sweet the Sound," featuring Matt and Liz Myer Boulton (Matt is professor of worship and theology at Harvard Divinity School. Liz is associate pastor at Old South Church in Boston) and the Rev. Burns and Lorraine Stanfield, Burns is pastor at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Boston and is a Des Moines native. Lorraine is an internist doctor working with mostly older people (they are the son and daughter-in-law of Des Moines Presbytery pulpit supply speaker Paul Stanfield of Knox United Presbyterian Church in Des Moines).

- Kim Coulter, director of communications

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Synod School, here we come!

Editor's Note: This week, our Presbytery blogs will focus on Director of Communication Kim Coulter's experience at Synod School. This annual event is sponsored by the Synod of Lakes and Prairies each year and over 600 people attend from all over the country. Kim is attending not only as a part of her family's vacation, but she will also be teaching a class "What are Web 1.0 and Web. 2.0? The Computer Revolution and How to Keep Up with the Kids". Each day, class participants will learn about various Internet tools and how to connect with their kids and network with other Presbyterians. This blog will give you a glimpse of Kim's daily activities. Comments are welcome and encouraged. Enjoy!

Day 1, July 26
My Sunday began with worship at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. The sermon was given by the Interim Pastor Rev. Stu Ritter, on "More than we can Imagine". Afterwards, the Senior High class members and leaders presented a slide show of their recent summer mission trip to Montana. They had a great time working on site improvements at the Glacier Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center, located on Flathead Lake. They finished the 9-day trip by white-water rafting and camping along Flathead River. After lunch, the Coulter family headed to northwest Iowa, stopping along the way in Dallas Center at the First Presbyterian Church, to pick up another participant.

Synod School is held at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Each year, registration and check in is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, followed by dinner at 4:45-6:30 p.m., with worship from 6:30-7:15 p.m. Afterwards, free time can be filled by attending a mini-course of a weekly class offering or a movie and fellowship. Then it's off to bed in the campus dormitories. More tomorrow...

Kim Coulter, Director of Communication
Presbytery of Des Moines

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Opportunity to Host El Salvador Missionary

Our El Salvador mission co-worker Kathy Mahler is back in Iowa for a visit and would like to spend time visiting either your church’s mission/social justice leaders and/or congregation regarding the Des Moines Presbytery’s mission in El Salvador. Kathy will be in Iowa July 22 - Aug. 7, 2009. She has several open dates for possible ‘talks’ which could be structured informally over a cup of coffee or in a ‘classroom’ type setting. Here is her calendar with events and the dates she is available:
  • Thursday, July 23, PM meeting, the South Central Regional Partnership hosts at First Presbyterian Church, 301 E. 1st St., Leon. Kathy’s presentation will follow a 6 p.m. potluck supper. Table service and drinks are provided. Child care for the evening is available. Everyone interested in this vital mission of our Presbytery is invited to attend. RSVP’s are not required but would be appreciated. Contact Rev. Jack DePond or Mary Ellen Stanley at 641-446-6179 or

  • Friday, July 24 – afternoon open and PM meeting with Intern

  • Saturday, July 25 – AM and PM meeting

  • Sunday, July 26 AM worship at Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive, and PM traveling to Synod School, Storm Lake

  • Monday, July 27 thru Friday, July 31 – Synod School class, Hope on the Mountain

  • Saturday, Aug. 1 – morning open and PM meeting

  • Sunday, Aug. 2 – AM worship at Douglas Avenue Presbyterian Church, Des Moines and afternoon and evening are open

  • Monday, Aug. 3 – AM and PM meeting in Parkersburg

  • Tuesday, Aug. 4 – AM and PM meeting in Parkersburg

  • Wednesday, Aug. 5 – AM and PM meeting

  • Thursday, Aug. 6 – available morning and early afternoon ('til 3 p.m.), PM meeting with Two Rivers Regional Partnership, TBD

Kathy will also be presenting a class at Synod School at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake July 26-31. The Hope on the Mountain class will be the second morning session each day from 10:45-11:45 a.m. There are also plans for her to hold a ‘mini’ session one evening during the week. Another option while at Synod School is to find her at meal times for an informal chat or more in depth if you wish.

To request a visit, go the Our Sister Parish Web site and submit your request using the online form or e-mail Kathy directly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RAGBRAI is Riding through Our Presbytery!

The following of our Des Moines Presbytery churches are supporting riders July 18-25, during the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa:

Monday, July 20 – The First Presbyterian Church, 907 Grove Ave., Corning, will have a lunch stop and pie stand. Last time the bikers came through they sold 600 slices – that’s 100 pies! Yum!

The ride will stop in Greenfield overnight where the First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield, 102 S.W. Kent St. (Hwy. 92), will host a chicken and noodle dinner from of 5-8 p.m. Menu includes: chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, watermelon and drinks. Cost is $8 with a wristband and $9 for all others.

Tuesday, July 21 – The Trinity United Presbyterian Church, 200 S. Howard St., Indianola, will have an overnight stay for a team of 70 Cedar Rapids riders and are providing a lunch food item of corn-on-the-cob from 11-2 p.m. That same day, they’ll provide 700-800 dinners from 4-8 p.m. Menu includes: pulled-pork sandwiches, corn-on-the-cob with chips and ice cream.

Wednesday, July 22 – The First Presbyterian Church, 737 Braden Ave., Chariton, will be serving a pork loin dinner when RAGBRAI riders stay overnight in their town. The meal will include sliced pork loin, baked potato with the trimmings, green beans, roll, pie and drinks for $8. The charge will be $9 without the registered wristband. They are planning to serve 600. Organ and piano music will be offered to those waiting in the sanctuary.

Thursday, July 23 – The riders will stay overnight in Ottumwa and the First Presbyterian Church, 228 W. 4th St., Ottumwa, will host the local Good Samaritan Society which is serving 500 pork loin dinners at the First Presbyterian Church. Yum!

Friday, July 17, 2009


One of the great things about the PW Churchwide Gathering was the opportunity to make connections. Of course I got to spend time with women from the Presbytery of Des Moines--women I don't get to see all the time. Most of us were able to join Presbyterian Women from the Synod of Lakes and Prairies at a luncheon on Tuesday. I was pleased to see familiar faces there as well. Our Synod Moderator and the speaker both served on the Synod SDOP Committee with me!

Later that afternoon the Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrated our 40th Anniversary with Presbyterian Women in the Great Room. My fellow Hunger Action Enablers were recognized, along with PHP staff. HAE's were created by Presbyterian Women so I have a special appreciation for that relationship! We also celebrated with partner organizations: Bread for the World, Alternatives for Simple Living, Partners for Just Trade, and others. It was wonderful to see old friends and colleagues all together again!

Tuesday evening's plenary included the installation of officers for the next PW triennium. Our new Moderator from the Presbytery of Puerto Rico, Marta Rodríguezis, the first Hispanic woman to serve in that capacity. She and her vice moderators are a powerful trio and I look forward to a great three years ahead. When the plenary session was over, with its fabulous music and worship and ceremony, I knew I had been a part of something big--connected to a great group of women all over the country and into the world. I'm already looking forward to 2012.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, I was off to the Flaget Retreat Center in Louisville for the Hunger Action Enablers' Gathering. I'll write about that too...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some of the Extras

While Linda O'Connell and Emily Seeger have been taking care of business, I've been enjoying forums and workshops and some of the extras associated with the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women.

I went to a forum on immigration led by Julia Thorne--she's an attorney-turned-director of the Office of Immigration Issues in the Office of the General Assembly. All of us learned a lot about the history of U.S. immigration policies since the 1830's--the relocation of Native Americans, criminalizing aid to runaway slaves, barring entry to the country for Chinese, and moving the Japanese to internment camps. Presbyterians have responded to immigration issues through the years, and Julia helped us to understand the issues of the day. We heard stories of undocumented immigrants, each ending with the statement: ...and I am a Presbyterian.

I went to a workshop led by the author of the 2009-2010 Bible study on Joshua. Mary Mikhael is on the faculty of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut and brings a very contemporary perspective to the study. There was a lively Q&A time and Mary offered stories from her life in the Middle East as illustrations for the sometimes difficult passages in the Old Testament scriptures.

Another workshop was led by Eva Clayton, former US Congresswoman from North Carolina who now works as a consultant to the UN on world hunger issues. We talked about Ordinary Women Serving as Agents of Justice. More of a round table discussion, everyone offered stories from their own experience and Eva kept pointing out the extraordinary things that ordinary women were sharing.

When I'm not in worship, workshops or the dining hall, I'm usually in either the book store or the Great Room. And the Great Room is my favorite place to explore. There are areas for learning about all the ways Presbyterian Women are at work in the world. There are areas full of resources to take home. There is a Global Garden where we can meet our international guests. There are lots and lots of Presbyterian booths, as well as booths for Heifer Project, Bread for the World, Alternatives for Simple Living, and lots more. There area areas to relax, areas to be creative, and areas to play games. And there is the Global Marketplace where we can learn about fair trade and development projects and support them with our purchases. The Great Room is a very busy place--I still haven't experienced it all, even after several visits.

During the Monday evening plenary, 22 mission personnel were commissioned for new postings, one of them my friend, Nancy Collins. Nancy was the facilitator in Egypt for our Joining Hands partnership and she is now the Regional Liaison for East Africa (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia). She invited me to the reception for these new mission workers afterwards, and it was a treat to meet some of the people and their families who will soon be serving the church worldwide.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

PW Churchwide Gathering Business Meeting

Emily Seeger (Atlantic, First United) and I (Linda O'Connell) are the voting delegates to the PW Churchwide Gathering this Triennium. We had our first business meeting on Sunday afternoon.

We heard and/or received reports from the Churchwide Coordinating team about their work for the 2007-2009 Triennium. Then we began to vote on the recommendation brought to us from the Coordinating Team. The vote today that will have the most impact on the future of Presbyterian Women was that we voted to incorporate PW and become our own 501C3 cooperation while still affirming our covenant agreement with the PC(USA). There were lots of questions about why and how of this process but in the end it was an almost unanimous decision to incorporate.

On some of our less controversial issues we tried out the consensus model to come to agreement on the motion. I must say that we all need a little more practice in this area before I would recommend using it in our Presbytery.

Two issues that we did come to consensus on were to add a person to the Coordinating Team representing new immigrant women and to become informed about the use of rape as a form of genocide and as a weapon of war in Sudan and other areas of conflict and take action to support women and others who are working toward peaceful solutions.

The plenary sessions have been outstanding. On Sunday, we heard two excellent sermons. This morning we heard about the mission projects of Presbyterian Women. We have celebrated through music, movement and dance. Best of all we have renewed old friendships and made some new ones. Want to know more about the gathering? Ask me to come and give a program at your PW or church group.

See you at Presbytery,
Linda O'Connell (Lucas, First & Chariton, First)

Louisville, Here We Come

I flew from Des Moines to Houston on Saturday morning with the usual folks--people making connections to here and there. But when I got on the Expressjet from Houston to Louisville, I noticed proportionately more women on board. And when I got to the baggage claim at the Louisville airport, there were women galore. Women of all shapes and sizes, women of color, women speaking Spanish and Korean, women young and not so young. And we all found ourselves at the taxi stand heading for the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women.

I found Rev. Linda O'Connell (Lucas First & Chariton, First) and we joined a group of women from Kansas City who were going to the same hotel. Linda and I will be roommates for the next few days, two of about a dozen who are here from the Presbytery of Des Moines. The lobby of the Galt House Hotel was a crush of women getting registered and waiting for the elevators. After settling in we hiked the skywalk to the convention center and I went to the first-timers' orientation.

I learned that there are over 2,400 of us here. We come from every presbytery in the U.S.--and among us are global partners from around the world. Counting Linda, I've seen four others from my presbytery--and several friends who are Hunger Action Enablers from across the country (our Gathering follows this one, finishing out the week here in Louisville).

I've been to lots of "big conferences" of Presbyterians, but this feels like the most diverse and friendliest one yet. Linda and I will keep you posted over the next few days...

Nancy Lister-Settle (Dallas Center, First)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Joining Hands with Egypt Looks at Organic and Fair Trade Products

Social Ministries Task Force Moderator Nancy Lister-Settle and member of Dallas Center First Presbyterian Church, just returned from her Egypt visit this past week. If you would like to read about her travels and Joining Hands with Egypt adventures, visit her blog.
After you finish reading her first journal and viewing the pictures, you can click on the “Next Post” button at the top of the article to read all of her posts. Nancy is looking at the organic and fair trade markets of Egypt for possible sale here in the U.S. These first steps and visits will help to work on a deeper understanding of the principles of fair trade.