Tag Archives: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Child of God, citizen of the world, ambassador for Christ

Smylie - 2016-01-16 Bulletin_Page_1A memorial service was held today at the First Presbyterian Church in Englewood, New Jersey, for the Rev. Robert F. Smylie, director emeritus of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Bob, who served God and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the United Nations for almost 30 years, died on December 19, 2015. 

I had the privilege to know Bob as a colleague and a friend. I had the honor to speak today at the service. Here is what I said:

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul tells the followers of Jesus that we are ambassadors for Christ. All of us. Wherever we may be, we are ambassadors for Christ, sharing the message of reconciliation: God loves us and desires us to love God and love one another. In Christ’s name, we proclaim that message in our words and our living.

For those who have had the privilege to serve God and the church at the United Nations the servant role of ambassador is clear. The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations represents the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) – represents the Church of Jesus Christ – within the UN community. There we serve as ambassadors for Christ.

In his ministry within the UN community and in his living, Bob Smylie served Jesus Christ and the Presbyterian Church as an ambassador in many ways. Ambassadors play a key role as bridge builders: building and nurturing and paying attention to the relationship between the state and the government they serve and the state and government where they are posted.

Bob went about building bridges with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.

Bob built bridges between faith in Jesus Christ and the global neighborhood. He affirmed the separation of church and state but he knew that our faith in a sovereign God of all of life compels us to engage in public issues—to apply our faith as God enables us to the concerns of the day in our communities and in our country and in that community of nations that is the United Nations. Bob reminded the church and the UN community that the UN was created to pursue peace and security; the church proclaims and pursues God’s concern for peace and justice.

Bob built bridges between theological reflection, ethical analysis, and public policies. He had a gift, a well-honed gift, that allowed him to “synthesize what was going on in the world and look at it through a reformed theological lens” in the words of Sara Lisherness, director of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Dean Lewis, who first hired Bob to work for the Presbyterian Church, highlighted Bob’s capacity to articulate a “clear vision of what was needed to move toward solutions from a sound theological foundation.”

Perhaps this came through most clearly in Bob’s work that helped shape the social witness policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). There he was something of a Triboro bridge builder. He brought togehther current issues, rigorous academic insights, and faithful discipleship to create policies that allowed the church to engage in ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.

For the first part of his career, Bob worked from 475 Riverside Drive and commuted to midtown Manhattan to engage the UN community. When the new Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moved its national offices to Louisville, Bob was left behind in New York to create what is now the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. He helped build the bridge between different styles of ministry.

Bob built bridges within the church – strengthening relationships between national level programs, mid-councils, academic institutions, committees, congregations, and individuals. He built bridges with UN programs and agencies and NGOs such as the US Fund for UNICEF. Through his career he built bridges with the U.S. government and Mission to the United Nations. He built bridges with the ecumenical and interfaith community in New York. Within that community he is remembered for his faith and integrity and for his excellence.

Bob built bridges between people of different ages. He was an amazing mentor to those who served as staff or interns. People who learned from Bob about ministry and living as followers of Jesus now serve as ambassadors for Christ within the church and outside the church. Through his engagement with and support of younger people, Bob helped build Christ’s diplomatic corps.

Today give thanks for the life and faith and witness and love of Bob Smylie: child of God, citizen of the world, ambassador for Christ. During the years of violence and oppression in Central America, the church developed a custom to remember those with whom they had shared life. Every time they gathered at table to break bread and share a cup to receive the body of Christ they would call out the names of those saints from their church who had been tortured or murdered by the military death squads.  And then as each name was called out, the whole congregation would respond, “Presenté” meaning they are present with us. They are physically gone, but in the wondrous mystery that is the Communion of Saints they share the journey with us. Forever.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, where Bob served for some twenty of the years he worked for the church, picked up the custom and began using it during staff meetings and at conferences and other gatherings. Today as family of Bob, colleagues of Bob, and friends of Bob, I invite you to join me.

The Rev. Robert F. Smylie.

Presenté!

Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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A Season of Peace

sop_logo_blueThe Presbyterian Peacemaking Program invites us to participate in A Season of Peace from September 7 through October 5. As well as supporting the Peace & Global Witness Offering, there are a number of ways to mark the season:

A Season of Peace is a four-week pilgrimage designed to deepen the pursuit of peace for congregations, small groups, families, and individuals. Through daily peace reflections, family activities, Bible studies, youth activities, an exciting Intergenerational Peace Fair and our new PEACE CARDS for children and families, you will be invited to enhance and expand your focus on your calling as a peacemaker. Expect encouragement, challenge, inspiration, and education.

The themes for A Season of Peace are based on the Presbyterian resource The Biblical Witness to Peacemaking, a 365-day walk through the Bible focusing on peace and justice passages.

Path of Peace Daily Reflections

Subscribe to the daily “Path of Peace” reflections and prayers written by participants and leaders of the 2014 Mosaic of Peace Conference.   Subscribe here

Adult Bible Study – The Things That Make for Peace

The Things That Make for Peace is a five-week adult study for small or large groups to be used during A Season of Peace or any time of the year. It focuses on the inner and outer path to peace as foundational to faithful discipleship. Each session has a “dig deeper” section for study through the week.  Download the study here.

Peace Cards

This set of 30 reproducible cards can be used by children and their families and is suitable for mealtime or any time of the day for a brief time of reflecting about peace.  Each includes a question, action and prayer for the day.  Download the cards now.

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Walk – 31 May 2014

Listen 07 17 08 2008 Peacemaking Conference Chapman (800x664)

17 July 2008
2008 Peacemaking Conference
Chapman University
Orange, California

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Daddy Don’t Go – you can help make it happen!

Daddy Don’t Go is a documentary that chronicles the lives of 4 young men in NYC who are trying to be good dads against the odds. You can help make this documentary happen through Kickstarter.

Here’s the scoop on the film:

Daddy Don’t Go is a feature length documentary that captures a year in the lives of four young men in New York City as they struggle against poverty to reach their full potential as fathers. The film poses urgent questions that expand the ongoing national dialogue concerning fatherhood. Can a man be a good dad in spite of not being a great provider? How does being a father shift a man’s identity? In true vérité style, Daddy Don’t Go will capture the crucial, intimate father-child relationship over time and without censorship. Alex, Nelson, Omar and Roy shatter the deadbeat dad stereotype, redefining what it means to be a good father for all men.

You can help make this documentary happen through Kickstarter.

Here’s the trailer:

You can help make this documentary happen through Kickstarter.

Here’s my connection to the project:

My friend Andrew Osborne is a co-director. Andrew and I met some ten years ago at a Presbyterian Peacemaking Program conference. Andrew worked the tech for the conference. I provided much of the content that he projected. Truth be told, our relationship got off to a rocky start. I asked for presentations that stretched the capacity of our equipment. When things did not go easily, I stormed off. Upon my return, I discovered that Andrew had patiently and carefully worked through things and a beautiful friendship began. We have nurtured the friendship since. We worked a couple more Peacemaking Conferences together and we made a video for the Peacemaking Program’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Over the past couple years, Andrew has helped with several video or photographic projects for the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. He has done so professionally and well. I believe in Andrew and his work. I am proud to support Daddy Don’t Go.

You too can help make this documentary happen through Kickstarter.

See you along the Trail.

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Chitenge on a dare

I am attending the meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Malawi Mission Network at the Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center in Allenspark, CO.

Last night (23 August), the opening night of the meeting, I went to the Malawi 101 session. There I won a door prize: a chitenge (also spelled chitenje).

My friend Amanda Craft wrote a reflection about the role of the chitenje when we were on a travel study seminar together. It was for the old blog of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program so it does not show Amanda as the author. She wrote it. I watched her.

The contest involved our birthdays. The person with their birthday closest to last night (23 August) was to win. With a date of one month and one day away, I won.

Amid the laughter came the dare: you should wear this tomorrow (24 August) when you do your presentation on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

Far be it from me to pass on a dare.

As my presentation began at 10:00 AM Central Time, Mary Mphande, Helen Zimba, and Mercy Nyirenda helped me don the chitenge. Kathy Bernard graciously took the picture.

And the rest is history.

See you along the Trail.

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P is for Planning

Gathered to dream,
to discern,
to plan
the 2010 Peacemaking Seminar,
good folks,
good time,
good event.

27 October 2009

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O is for Outdoors

The beauty of Ghost Ranch
leads people to want to spend
as much time outdoors as possible.

The Youth Service Corps
rebuilt the outdoor amphitheater
where the community gathers for worship.

25 October 2009

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E is for Ed

From Ghost Ranch’s Facebook page:

We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our director of education & program yesterday morning, Ed DeLair. Thank you all, for your kind words and sentiments.

Services will be held Monday, February 6, at 10:30 a.m. at the Agape Center at Ghost Ranch. A gathering for lunch will follow in the dining hall.

Please keep his wife Becky and their four children, Eddie, Tom, Will and Eva in your prayers.

Son Eric, who worked at Ghost Ranch this past summer and knew Ed, shared the news with me via a text. Not wanting to believe, I fired a text of denial back to Eric. After some searching, it became clear that I should not have doubted. And then the news from the ranch itself.

Through tears that clouded my heart, an image emerged: a bright July morning, Ed standing outside the Dining Hall, Kitchen Mesa bursting with sun, steam rising from the coffee cup held in his hand, a big smile on his face.

Ed and I met in Israel. He took part in a travel-study seminar to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories organized by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The picture shows him with his presbytery team on that trip. That’s pretty much the same smile he had on the July morning in New Mexico. Actually, that’s pretty much the same smile he always had on his face.

Over the years we bumped into each other at various places around the denomination. Most recently, we had several conversations at Ghost Ranch this past July. Clearly Ed was where he wanted to be, where he was supposed to be. And now, for reasons I cannot explain, he is not.

Many words come to mind to describe Ed – you can see a lot of them on his Facebook pageon the Ghost Ranch Facebook page:

Good
Kind
Decent
Committed
Caring
Solid (mutual friend Bob Brashear uses that one; it fits)
Competent
Faithful
Faith-filled

I grieve for Ed’s family and friends.

I grieve for the Ghost Ranch staff and the extended Ghost Ranch community.

I grieve for all who have been torn by Ed’s death – all who mourn.

I pray that they have already experienced the grace of God sustaining them and the love of family and friends supporting them as they walk this shadowed valley. I pray they continue to do so.

And I give thanks for the life and love and witness of Ed DeLair who lived – lived well and lived fully.

To paraphrase the Presbyterian service of Witness to the Resurrection: “Even in the face of death – death that comes too soon – we make our song: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

See you along the Trail.

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A is for Arrival

The second Ghost Ranch alphabet begins.
What better place to begin than when one arrives at the ranch:
at that time, one checks in.

The main check occurs outside the office.

For the 2010 Peacemaking Conference,
participants confirmed their presence
at the Ghost House.

25 August 2010

Two differences between this and the previous alphabet:
the pictures will include people
but
the pictures may not appear as often as daily.

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Begin again

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has created a daily Advent devotion – Proclaiming the Good News of God’s Peace. I had the privilege of writing the devotion for today. You can order the booklet or read each day’s devotion.

Tuesday, November 29
Matthew 21:12-17

We think of Advent as a time to prepare to celebrate again the birth of Jesus. In today’s reading, we find not a baby but a  grown-up Jesus. Jesus entered the temple and saw people selling animals to the pilgrims for their obligatory sacrifices. They exchanged Roman currency into Jewish money so the temple tax could be paid in appropriate coinage. Jesus disrupted the scene, overturning tables and chairs.

This striking story seems more appropriate at the end of Jesus’ life than at its beginning. But here it is. We wonder: Did Jesus object to all commercial activity in the temple? Or just to the exploitation of the people by those who controlled the means of ritual purity and access to God? In either case, in both cases, his actions invite the people to change, to begin again.

Its placement here, in Advent, invites us to begin again as well. Begin again in our hearts, in our relationships with God, in our relationships with those we love and in our relationships with those we do not know. Begin again to live lives walking humbly with God, seeking peace, doing justice, and loving one another. Begin again with confidence because we know who was present at the beginning . . . who awaits us at the end . . . and who holds us in the meantime.

PRAYER
God of the ages, may this Advent season be a time of renewal and new beginnings in our lives of faithful discipleship following Jesus, whose birth we celebrate. In his name we pray. Amen.

Rev. W. Mark Koenig, director, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, New York, New York

See you along the Trail.

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