SF City-Wide Youth Group in Full Swing

San Francisco City-wide youth group has met a few times. The group is currently looking for ways to partner more with churches in San Francisco. You can donate money or church space for them to meet. You can also join the fun by bringing your own middle school and high schoolers. Check out the video for more information.




Urban Legacy in the East Bay

The PCUSA churches in the East Bay are also trying collaborate and partner as well. Here is what came out of their last few gatherings:

Originally posted on Rev. Abby King Kaiser’s blog:

Fifteen congregations from five cities in the inner East Bay gathered on November 12, 2011, for a full day of fellowship, reflection and dreaming.  Following the Urban Legacy Convocation in San Francisco, the Spirit moved in the East Bay to convene a similar gathering. The twenty congregations of Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and San Leandro were invited to participate in sharing our stories and dreaming about our legacy through a World Cafe conversation process.  The leadership team–Cal Chinn, George Gilchrist, Abby King-Kaiser, Monte McClain, and Sarah Reyes–hoped for a day as inspired as San Francisco’s but with the flair of the East Bay.

The day glorified God through the diversity of our stories, the breadth of our discipleship and the desire to deepen our ministry in the communities we serve.

We serve…
Just over 750,000 people in five cities

Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and San Leandro
Our communities are diverse.
Hills and flats, port and marina, neighborhoods with horse trails, neighborhoods with bike trails, neighborhoods sidewalks that require off-road capable strollers.  The area we serve is geographically large with a great deal of variation.  Life expectancy can vary almost fifteen years in the area based on where you live.#  Some of our churches serve a city where almost 70% of the residents have a Bachelor’s degree.# Some of our churches serve neighborhoods where “43 percent of residents over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma and the dropout rate is 40 percent.”#

Our communities are dense.
Neighbors, on top of neighbors, on top of neighbors. Some parts of our region have as many as 10,000 people per square mile.  The least dense communities are still as dense as many cities in the middle of the country.  Our proximity to each other means that there is always mission and ministry to do, always community to build, always new people to reach.

Our communities are global.
25-45% of the households in the East Bay speak a language other than English.#  A minimum of thirty languages are spoken in the area, by some counts, as many as eighty.  Immigrants, refugees, people seeking asylum all come to the East Bay looking for many of the blessings some of us experiences.  Some are disappointed, finding violence and poverty as bad or worse than where they came from.#  We are connected by Twitter, Facebook and Skype to family, friends and strangers all over the world, and yet Internet access is certainly no universal.

Our communities are in need.
About fifteen percent of the inner East Bay falls below the federal poverty line,# (quick facts) but two in ten families are not economically self-sufficient.#  Our people need better education at all levels, increased access to health care, dignified work, clear roads to citizenship, affordable housing and more.

Our communities are unique and innovative.
The East Bay is a hot bed for food, for music, for art, for culture in a,, its manifestations.  We are the home of Alice Waters, Maxine Hong Kingston, Green Day.  Booby Seale and Gertrude Stein, Oscar Grant and Johannes Mesherle, Jerry Brown and MC Hammer, Bruce Lee and Julia Morgan. Chevron and Sungevity.  Clorox and Green for All. Nobel Laureates are educated and teach here, just up the hill from an animated movie studio, which is just up the shoreline from one of the West Coast’s busiest ports.  Street art, hip-hop, chess, farming, protesting–we take it all, innovate it and make it our own.

It is a blessing to be called to follow Christ here.

It is a blessing to tell the stories of our faith and our communities to those who live nearby but may feel a world away.

We are discerning, but we are also confused.

We seek the will of God in our congregations, we seek to discern the gifts of others, to be open and welcoming, and yet church doesn’t always go as planned.  What we think will solve our problems doesn’t always or we don’t the growth and response that we expect.  We try to remain open and creative, but over the long haul, can get tired and frustrated.  We can’t see people’s passion for God, and can mistake other ways of connecting to God for being disinterested.

In the midst of it all, we may feel disoriented.  We are challenged by the call to do ministry in this context and culture.  How to we minister to a community that speaks many languages?  That lives in many cultures?  How we do see ourselves in relationship to our community what few of our people come from the neighborhood?  We all have our own questions and struggles as congregations, but seek to come out of this isolation to weave it all together for greater strength.

We have blessings and we have baggage and sometimes we can’t tell the two apart.

Our buildings give us presence and shape our identity but can eat up our time and energy and resources.  Our history helps to root us in tradition but can be hard to let go of to.  Our locations have built a particular community but also have restrictions that we feel like hold us back. Our successes gave us a sense of identity but can be as difficult to move beyond as our failures.

We love Jesus, but we don’t always know what it means to be a Presbyterian.

And yet, we share leadership.  We are most proud of our work together when our pastors and our Sessions work together, when lay leadership is encouraged, inspired, nurtured and filled with the Spirit.  We seek to empower others by our work.  We are faithful as leaders and our leaders are faithful, when their leadership leaves a legacy, when they work themselves out of a job.  Relationship with God and with each other is our foundation.

Presbyterian is a way of leading, facing not just inward but outward.

We can have trouble connecting across generations, across cultures, across difference.  And yet, when we find common ground, we find the Spirit.

We value our diversity, our shared values, our common faith, our desire for justice and equality.  We need to deepen our relationship to God’s word, we need to commit ourselves to each other’s spiritual formation, and sometimes we just need to get out of our own way.

We need to listen, to be accountable to each other, to equip each other, to realize that we are in the struggle together.

We can be like the staff of Moses–used by God and powerful at the same time.

All of this is part of how we love out our Presbyterian identity and our discipleship of Christ.  This is our legacy to our communities.

We resist change and we embrace change.  We are in transition.

Small is beautiful.  Big is beautiful.  Everything in between is beautiful.  As the church is in transition in the greater culture and many of our congregations are in transition in our particular contexts, we have to re-frame and re-think our identities.  We are not who we once were.  We can be successful and letting go, celebrating our past, and living into the future, but it is hard.  It is also happening around the East Bay.

We face scarcity and competition.  We face decline, irrelevancy and outdated models of working.  And yet, thinking about ourselves this way can be a hopeless framing of our story by a culture of fear.  The Gospel tells a different story and the resurrection offers another way.

That is the story we tell when we come together.

Summary Written by Rev. Abby King-Kaiser, January 2012

Special Thanks to Rev. Cal Chinn, Rev. Charie Reid, Elder Linda Lee and Rev. Monte McClain for their thorough notes

Check Out Video of Past 2 Gatherings

What If Churches Were Missional Outposts?

Originally posted on Still Waters on April 5, 2012

In March, we were able to hold our 2nd Urban Legacy Gathering, where twenty-two San Francisco PCUSA churches gathered together. This time we were able to gather ALL 22! Since this was the second gathering, we wanted to continue the energy and excitement from the last gathering. While the first gathering focused on getting to know each other and coming up with a collective “legacy” to live into, this gathering balanced providing a big picture plan and opportunities to collaborate.

The main theme of the gathering was shifting our perspective from being 22 individual congregations to being one church with 22 missional outposts. How different would we be and do church if we viewed ourselves as missionaries in our particular neighborhoods? For one, we would consider 22 PCUSA churches in a 7 x 7 mile city not as too many but as not enough. We would imagine the many neighborhoods where ministry is possible. We would stop judging each other as who is viable and who is not and see each other for what we uniquely offer. We would no longer feel like we have to do it all, but how we could partner and share.

So, this is what we came up with as way to begin shifting our focus:

Missional Legacy

For congregations who are discerning their viability and want to process the legacy they wish to leave, have a discernment team to walk with them and access resources for them.

There are some local resources that are forming and cropping up to address this like Presbytery Associates (Retired or Members-At-Large Minister Members) who have expertise in financial assistance or real estate and the Lazarus Project who could provide guidance in the process of discerning the legacy the church would like to leave.

Missional Church Development

For congregations who don’t have the financial resources for a full-time pastor and still have the energy to do “something,” have them be a training post for seminarians or recent graduates.

Providing hands-on opportunities for seminarians and recent graduates to plan worship, preach regularly, and experience the joys and struggles of working in a parish is a gift that these churches can offer. In return, they will have some stability in having someone provide pastoral care and leading worship. Local veteran pastors can provide support, guidance, and whatever is needed to cover internship requirements for the seminarian or recent graduate.

Missional Initiatives

For congregations (especially racial ethnic or smaller congregations) who struggle to find the skilled leadership, have lay leaders trained and skilled to provide leadership in their particular context.

By providing affordable retreats for pastors and lay leaders, churches can benefit by having a wealth of skilled lay leaders. In May, we are offering an affordable retreat and bringing in speakers for those who want to continue the conversation of missional leadership. We were able to get free housing and use of San Francisco Theological Seminary at no cost so that the fee was minimal.

Also, the Presbytery of San Francisco transformed a church building that is no longer in use into an Education Center for Commissioned Lay Leaders. They will provide classes in Korean, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Missional Collaboratives

For congregations who want to partner around different issues and ministries, provide opportunities for these churches to gather, plan, brainstorm, and collaborate.

Some of the ideas that came out of the second gathering were forming a city-wide youth group, address housing and homelessness issues, how to welcome interfaith families, nursing home ministry, and how to reach the “unchurched.”

One of the next steps is gathering some of the pastors and elders at the last gathering to brainstorm ways that we can connect with each other. Some ideas are to have a Pulpit Switch day. What if someone from every church agreed to switch and preach at a different church? Another idea is to have a Sunday where all twenty-two churches worship in one place. I don’t know if any of these ideas are possible, but it is fun to dream of ways we can actually get to know each other and see each other’s church in action.

Well, that’s it. That’s where we are starting. I’m excited to see how this lives out and transforms from here. If anything, it’s wonderful to redefine what makes a church healthy, valuable, and worthy.

May 14-16: Re-focusing Retreat at SFTS

Re-focusing Retreat at San Francisco Theological Seminary

May 14-16 2012

Cost $100 per congregation/3 representatives from each congregation

(pastor and lay leaders for mission and/or education)

Overnight accommodation and breakfast provided.  Other meals on own in nearby restaurants.

This retreat will be an opportunity for us to continue in greater depth the conversations and exploration on what it means to be a missional outpost.

2nd Urban Legacy Gathering

Originally posted on Still Waters on March 27, 2012

At the Next conference, I shared about a gathering where we gathered the 22 churches in San Francisco to see how we could better partner with one another and address some of the issues that urban churches face. The first gathering was getting to know each other and putting together a document that named our collective legacy as 22 PCUSA churches.

This second gathering we wanted to think more big picture as well as come away with concrete ideas for networking and partnering. Every church was invited to send two representatives (1 pastor & 1 elder or 2 elders). We provided daycare for those who had children. Although the gathering was a grassroots effort and planned by San Francisco pastors, the gathering was financially supported by the Committee on Ministry. With supplies, food, and daycare, we budgeted $500.

Here are the details of the process we went through and the topics discussed. The process was similar to the first one, but we used a different process modality. You can view pictures of the gathering here.


Gathering Songs – singing songs to bring us together.

Lighting the Christ Candle

Opening Prayer –

What are your hopes?

What are your expectations?

The Welcome – Welcoming One Another

  • Welcome from pastor from host church

Community Building –

Participants were invited to cut out images and words to answer the following questions about their church. They made a collage from their clippings. Then, pastors and elders from each church were invited to share their collage.

  • On the church template, what are you proud of about your church? What identifies your church?
  • On the outline of the church template, what is your church lacking or missing?


We then spent time hearing from Rev. JD Ward who has done a lot of work around missional leadership. He talked about moving from a perspective of 22 individual PCUSA churches to one church with 22 mission outposts. If we looked at ourselves as missionaries, we would look at how our churches engage with the city much differently than we do now. Functioning as a church is very different than functioning as a mission outpost.



Open Space Time – Participants were invited to throw out topic that they would like to have and then brok up into small groups to talk about those topics and then we gathered back together to harvest the ideas and share them with the larger group. Participants were asked to follow the following Open Space guidelines.

  • What topics would you like to talk about?
  • How’d you like to network and partner?

What Is Open Space?

Open Space is a time for people to gather in small groups around an interested topic. You pick the topic.

Open Space Guidelines:

  • Whoever comes is the right person.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could.
  • Whenever it starts is the right time.
  • When it’s over, it’s over.
  • The Law of Mobility: if you are neither learning nor contributing, join another session where you will be inspired.
  • Be prepared to be surprised.
Conversation Guidelines: Please practice and encourage these conversation guidelines.
  • Open-mindedness: Listen to and respect all points of view.
  • Acceptance: Suspend judgment as best you can.
  • Curiosity: Seek to understand rather than persuade.
  • Discovery: Question assumptions, look for new insights.
  • Sincerity: Speak what has personal heart and meaning.
  • Brevity: Go for honesty and depth but don’t go on and on.
  • Use Law of Mobility: Take responsibility for your participation. If you feel you are neither contributing nor learning where you are, join another session where you will be inspired.
Conversation Host Guidelines: 

Thank you for being willing to host an Open Space conversation at a presbytery meeting. The process is simple. Email the Meetings Working Group your topic and a brief paragraph describing the topic. The Meetings Working Group will be in contact with you. Topics are considered depending on the presbytery meeting schedule. Open Space time is usually one hour long.

During Your Conversation: 

Remember the six guidelines of Open Space.

Remember you are the host! This is not a workshop but a place to host good conversation around your idea or topic. Trust that what the Spirit wants to say will emerge in the space of open and honest conversation.

When you are ready to begin, read the Conversation Guidelines to your group, briefly introduce yourself and the topic, encourage visual harvesting and begin.

Harvest your conversation by taking notes on the Harvesting Sheet or providing some type of visual. Take a picture of the harvested notes or turn them into a presbytery staff person so that they can be shared on the website.

With 5 minutes left, make connections and discern any important insights that can also be harvested for future partnerships or networking.

The Big Picture –

We then had the participants break out into four groups. This was to a glimpse of a part of a big picture about how we can collectively address some of the issues our urban churches face. The groups were:

  • Missional Legacy – for churches who are looking at their future and assets and interested in some type of assessment
  • Missional Church Development – churches who can’t afford a pastor be a training post for seminarians or recent grads interested in more urban ministry training
  • Missional Initiatives – a clump of churches who can train lay leaders
  • Missional Collaboratives – topics and projects that churches want to partner and collaborate on

Going Out

  • Song of Response
  • Praying together – We began the day with a map of San Francisco and did a collage of the individual churches which was added to the map. For closing prayer, participants were invited to add a word or image to the map that described the 22 mission outposts as one church.

  • Lord’s Prayer
  • Closing Song
  • Benediction

I share the process because I believe the model worked well to generate and foster good conversations, especially in the midst of diversity. We are truly making it up as we go along and look forward to seeing how these gatherings build on one another.

Feel free to use and adapt this process. I look forward to hearing your own experiences if you choose to use this process.

NEXT Church Presentation

Below is a link to the Powerpoint presentation that Rev. Theresa Cho did at the Next Conference sharing what has been happening in the Presbytery of San Francisco to build community with 22 Presbyterian churches in the city of San Francisco. The Powerpoint also includes rough notes, describing each slide.