Peace & Justice

and

Missionaries Team

We work together with the wider Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), our missionaries, our Presbytery, and our local community to:

  • Create an atmosphere of peace
  • Work towards justice for women, children, and all living on the margins
  • Support and raise awareness of non-violent resistance in modern times
  • Create an atmosphere for self-sufficiency
  • Support the work of missionaries serving in South Sudan, Honduras, & Greece.
  • Steward our Covenant Relationship with the “Bread for the World” organization
Who We Are

First Presbyterian has a long history of peacemaking and support of missionaries. FPCA was one of the first congregations to sign the denomination’s Commitment to Peacemaking in 1983, primarily because the church already had an active Peacemaking committee. The Peacemaking Offering, one of four denomination-wide special offerings, has funded past activities. Middle East peace has always been a main focus and other activities have involved a number of peacemaking issues. For instance, the peacemakers initiated the Fifth Grade Pretzel Sale to raise money to sponsor a child from Children International. In more recent years, the covenant that FPCA signed with the Bread for the World organization found an advocacy home with the Peace and Justice team. Renewed interest in more actively supporting missionaries created the Special Missionaries team in the early 2000s. With overlap between peacemaking and missionary work, the teams combined in 2008.

Under the umbrella of Peacemaking in the PC(USA), the team works to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves. We do this by writing letters, educating the congregation, working in the community, promoting the Peacemaking Offering, going to national conferences, inviting speakers to our church, offering fair-trade coffee and other items for alternative gift-giving, and prayer.

When our missionaries come to visit, we welcome them and celebrate with gatherings such as potluck dinners and ice-cream socials as we learn first-hand about the hard work that peaceful resolutions require.

If your heart yearns for justice, if you believe non-violence is the best way to overcome oppression, if you think respectful dialogue is needed in today’s world—this is a team for you! We don’t have all the answers, but working together for peace helps us learn what the answers could be—from one another, from those who have gone before, and those who are currently struggling to make a violent world more livable.

Current Requests

None at this time. Please check back for updates.

Bread For The World

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we advocate for a world without hunger.  The national organization equips its members to communicate with Congress and to work with others on advocacy. It educates members on hunger-related issues and inspires members to be legislative activists as a way of putting their Christian faith into action.

In our congregation, we support Bread for the World by hosting a regional workshop in the spring of the year to discuss current needs for advocacy.  That regional workshop is followed by a letter-writing campaign.  The letters are then dedicated to God during worship as prayers of intercession in an Offering of Letters.

2018 Offering of Letters:  For Such a Time as This

In 2018, funding for vital domestic and international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs is again at risk of deep cuts. We are urging Congress to invest and protect key programs that help improve the lives of men, women, and children facing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

Copies of the pre-written letters are available here:

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re:  2017 Victories

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Biblical Mandate

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Change Poverty Assessment

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: False Morality

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Declaration on Racism and Poverty

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Dream Act

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Global Food Security Act

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Oppose Farm Bill

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Voting Rights

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Water

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: Prison Reform

Letter to Sen. Robert Casey re: SNAP WIC

To sent letters to Senator Patrick Toomey, simply change the address and salutation at the top of the letter to the follow:

Senator Patrick Toomey
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Toomey:

Prison Ministry

The seed starting the Prison Ministry was planted at a Mission Gathering in January 2013, where one member of the gathering posted on the PJM flip chart, “Why is there violence?”  The question spread to the Lehigh Conference of Churches Justice and Advocacy Committee where types of violence were listed in a brainstorming session.  Analysis of the list showed that prison was connected to all the types of violence – and a fall workshop, The Heart of Justice was the result.

In 2015, a week-long Pipeline-to-Prison Learning Tour was hosted by the Mennonite Central Committee East Coast, giving lasting inspiration, connections, history, and knowledge of prisons in the United States.

One of the main emanations for the Pipeline-to-Prison tour was the realization of how closely prison and racism are linked.  From this realization, several connections in the Lehigh Valley have been made: POWER Northeast, Promise Neighborhoods, Fair Districts PA, The League of Women Voters, ACLU.  New connections continue to be made; new ideas will continue to be pursued.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival came to the attention of the team when a member attended Big Tent in St. Louis in 2017.  The Campaign extends from May 13 – June 23, 2018; Pennsylvania is one of 32 states participating in its own specific-to-the-state version.  More information at  https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Human Trafficking

In 2016, the “education focus” of the team was on human trafficking.  This ties in with the Lehigh Conference of Churches 2015 fall workshop Stand Up to Bullies (where one of the foci was on trafficking) and the PC(USA) focus on trafficking http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/human-trafficking/.

The local group, Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST) has a growing base of supporters and held its first “survivor retreat” in February 2016.  PJM provided a scholarship for a survivor to attend.  Luggage tags from the organization ECPAT-USA were available for purchase in June 2016.

PJM is not actively working on human trafficking at this time but keeps in touch with VAST and with immigration activists.

Fair Trade

The concept of fair trade has deep roots in Pennsylvania, going back to the 1820s and Quakers.  The basis of modern fair trade began after WWII to promote the economic and social progress of developing countries.  Fair-trade certified products must meet a set of standards that include:  living wages for those who make the products, safe working conditions with reasonable hours, a guarantee that children of the laborers go to school, democratic decision-making, and an emphasis on sustainability (use of natural products that can be replenished, natural dyes, re-purposing materials, protection of biodiversity, emitting low amounts of greenhouse gases, organic practices).

PJM has worked actively to educate the congregation on Fair-Trade since 1999, when the team began offering Equal Exchange coffee and tea at various times of the year and providing Breakfast Blend coffee to the church for Sunday fellowship in the kitchen.  A Ten Thousand Villages “marketplace” was offered in 2002.  Interim pastor Kathy Jamhoury offered a Lenten Study on Fair-Trade in 2008 and greatly increased interest, leading the Mission Leadership Team to offer SERRV products at the Alternative Gift Fair that year.

In May 2017, PJM expanded its list of fair-trade partners with offerings from Partners for Just Trade, a PCUSA fair-trade organization that began in Peru.  The much-loved chocolate bars from Equal Exchange have become a staple of the Alternative Gifts offered at Christmas.

Women For Women

Women-for-Women works in 8 countries of the world that have been torn apart by war.  Started in 1993, the organization brings women together to learn to have faith in themselves and form support networks.  The year-long training includes health and nutrition classes, the principles of democracy, and leadership skills during the first six months; the rest of the year the women learn a vocation and business skills.  Women who graduate from the program usually start their own businesses and begin the long process of lifting up their communities from war-ravaged poverty.

Agnes completed the program in August 2016.  A third sister, Hannatu Sunday, from Nigeria, completed the program in December 2017.  We are currently waiting for another sister.

Missionaries

FPCA sponsors missionaries in 4 countries.  Please stay tuned to these pages for information about the missionaries and the countries were they serve.

Nadia Ayoub:  Nadia Ayoub has started a new mission with refugees in Greece.  She will be moving to her new mission in June 2018.  She shared a bit about her new mission with us when she last visited in April 2018.

Nadia’s previous mission work was with the Roma people in the Carpath region of Ukraine.  She began a pre-school program there and worked with the children to bring them to an understanding of what it is like to attend school and love Jesus.  Her mission was not renewed since the local Hungarian Reformed partner felt they could continue to provide guidance to the Roma in education.  Nadia helped the local congregations overcome the deep-rooted prejudice against the Roma and towards the end of her ministry, Roma were allowed to become church members.

 

Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather:  Nancy and Shelvis Smith Mather serve the people of South Sudan.  The mission has changed greatly since the beginning because Nancy and Shelvis and great deal of the population of South Sudan have relocated to Uganda.

Shelvis continues to work with RECONCILE Institute.  This spring, he managed a conversation with the local people of Uganda and the thousands of South Sudanese who are in the largest refugee camp in the world.  The tensions between the initially welcoming Ugandans and the South Sudanese have been a challenge to the peace-building RECONCILE tries to pursue.

Nancy is the manager of the South Sudan Education and Peace Building Project which provides schooling for children who have been out of school for years due to war.

The Smith-Mathers last visited us in 2014.

 

Dori Hjalmarson:  Dori Hjalmarson works with the Presbytery of Honduras to provide leadership training and coordination of the various Presbyterian churches.  She started her ministry in January 2018 and we were blessed with a visit from her in November 2017 before she moved to Honduras.

 

Forman Christian College:  A previous mission co-worker sponsored by PJM, David Francis, worked at Forman Christian College in Pakistan.  That relationship paved the way for the recent opportunity to partner with the college, now a university, to provide opportunities for additional students to receive the excellent education this Presbyterian mission school has made available for more than 150 years.

Justice and Advocacy

The Justice and Advocacy Committee of the Lehigh Conference of Churches and PJM work very closely with one another.  The two groups offer support and information to each other to help churches in Allentown and Bethlehem and the communities of both cities.  This year, the two groups worked together to bring Fair Districts PA to FPCA in January, the Bread for the World regional workshop to FPCA on April 7, and an immigration workshop at St. Luke’s Lutheran on April 29.  Planning for a fall workshop is in progress.

Long-time member of J&A, Rev. Karen Moeschberger, has been honored by the Conference with the Interfaith Action Award this year.

LGBT

It was with great joy that FPCA staffed its first table at the Lehigh Valley Gay Pride Festival in 2017.  Although Rev. Lindsay Harren-Lewis provided most of the support and organization, this effort is now in the hands of those of us who helped out last year.

In addition, PJM has been active in helping out with the Bradbury-Sullivan Center in Allentown.  Ron is member of the Lehigh Valley Gay Men’s Chorus.  We welcome new people and ideas to help with justice and advocacy for LGBTQIA persons.

The Peace & Justice and Missionaries Team communicates mostly through email (ronclever@aol.com) and meets on as “as-needed” basis.

For more information, contact team leader Ron Clever, 610-360-7541.