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December 2023


"Blessings in this season of waiting and anticipation"

Message from the Transitional Synod Leader:

Anticipating God

“Blessings in this season of waiting and anticipation” has been my closing remark this Advent season. It is the anticipation part of this that has captured my attention. It is my prayer in an unusual way. I am praying for the spiritual ability to anticipate miraculous things. I expect that at every corner, there is a possibility that I might meet God and experience Emmanuel, God with us.


These days when so much hints that God is absent, living in anticipation takes faith. Every moment from when we wake until we sleep at night is filled with the reality of the Holy (Psalm 139:7-10). What I am suggesting is countercultural to human nature because what is most natural is our visceral responses to the moments of our days. To remind ourselves that there is more here than what meets the eye is a spiritual discipline.


In Black culture, these words are often recited in prayer, “Lord, keep us from seen and unseen dangers.” Culturally, these words reflect the theological belief in the two dimensions of life, the physical and the spiritual. Scripture supports this theological framework with stories of thin spaces and mountaintop experiences where, amid the ordinary, there are God moments. These moments fill us with awe. They build our spiritual muscles for anticipation.


How do we position ourselves for these experiences? Cole Arthur Riley, author of “This Here Flesh,” wrote, “My faith is held together by wonder—by every defiant commitment to presence and paying attention.” He further states: “Wonder includes the capacity to be in awe of humanity, even your own. It allows us to jettison the dangerous belief that things worthy of wonder can only be located on nature hikes and scenic overlooks. This can distract us from the beauty flowing through us daily. Every second that our organs and bones sustain us is a miracle. When those bones heal, when our wounds scab over, this is our call to marvel at our bodies—their regeneration, their stability or frailty. This grows our sense of dignity. To be able to marvel at the face of our neighbor with the same awe we have for the mountaintop, the sunlight refracting—this manner of vision is what will keep us from destroying each other. Wonder requires a person not to forget themselves but to feel themselves so acutely that their connectedness to every created thing comes into focus. In sacred awe, we are a part of the story.” (Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make US, New York: Convergent, 2022).


You can tie this all together in a big bow. Waiting, anticipating, and awe together places us in a hopeful posture. All the decorating, the lights, the concerts, the festivities, and special meals are signs of resistance…we refuse to be convinced that God is not among us. Saying so feels like a defiant moment, especially when the shadows of hate and warring seem to have the upper hand. I am convinced our struggle is not unique to our era. The Christian proclamation amid troubled times is historic. Read again Hebrews 12, the stories of the Great Cloud of Witnesses.


As we recount the Christmas story, we hear about the resiliency in faith; Mary, a young girl in her teens saying "Yes, I will be a vessel to carry the Almighty." It is Joseph changing his course of action because of a dream. Elizabeth who was barren but now with child, upon hearing Mary’s greeting the child leaped in her womb. It is the Magi following a star and journeying home another way. It is the world changed by a baby that causes us to live in faith.


From the Ashley home to yours, may you see God Emmanuel everywhere. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Upcoming Events

January 8-11 , 2024

Staff Away on Retreat

January 23, 2024

Book Study Webinar:

The Risk of Being Woke

January 26-27, 2024

Synod Commission Meeting via Zoom

February 13, 2024

Webinar: Ask, Thank, Tell

February 18, 2024

Indigenous People's Day Special Offering

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Upcoming Grants/Aid

Campus Ministry Grant January 10, 2024

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Youth & Young Adult Leadership Support Grant January 10, 2024

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Innovation Grant April 8, 2024

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Around the Synod

Check out the latest events & job postings from ministries across the Synod.

Synod 2024 Holiday Calendar


The Synod has compiled a Gun Violence Prevention Toolkit. Please take a few moments to look over these resources and share them with your community..


Matthew 25 In Action:

The Steeple Center

- A Testament to Faith in Action

The Matthew 25 Initiative, guided by the teachings of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and goats, calls us to action: building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty. The transformation of the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton (FPCT) into the Steeple Center, under the Coastlands Presbytery, exemplifies this mission.

Reviving History for a Brighter Future

120 East State, the non-profit behind the transformation, aims to revitalize the 300-year-old site of FPCT into a community-centric Steeple Center. This project is a fusion of faith, history, and community engagement, embodying the first focus of the Matthew 25 Initiative - invigorating congregational vitality. The church's rich history, dating back to the Battle of Trenton, and its role as a spiritual beacon in the community are being repurposed to serve the broader needs of today's society​​.

A Hub for Inclusivity and Diversity

The Steeple Center aims to be more than just a performing arts center. It stands as a testament to the second focus of the initiative, dismantling structural racism. By creating an inclusive space that welcomes all, the Center seeks to bridge divides and foster unity in a setting steeped in history​​.

Addressing Poverty Through Community Engagement

The anticipated $25 million project is not just an investment in bricks and mortar but in the people of Trenton. By generating local employment and providing space for non-profit and for-profit entities, the Steeple Center aims to address systemic poverty, resonating with the third focus of the Matthew 25 Initiative. This venture will catalyze the revitalization of the surrounding community, offering jobs and creating opportunities for meaningful connections​​.

A Collaborative Effort

This ambitious project, seeded by the First Presbyterian Trenton congregation and supported by grants and community efforts, showcases the power of collective action. The project leaders emphasize the continued need for support to make this dream a reality, a call that aligns perfectly with the ethos of the Matthew 25 Initiative​​.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

The Steeple Center project is a vivid example of Matthew 25 in action - a demonstration of faith, hope, and love in tangible form. It invites us, as members of the Synod of the Northeast and beyond, to reflect on how we can contribute to such transformative endeavors in our communities.

Let us be inspired by this project to seek out and support initiatives that embody the spirit of Matthew 25, for, in doing so, we live out our faith in the most profound way.

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Calling Emerging Pastors

As you navigate the early years of your ecclesiastical call to service you will experience unique challenges and opportunities that come with the early stages of ministry. The Early Ministry Institute Design Team invites you to be a part of the 2024 Early Ministry Institute (EMI). This year’s theme: Resilience and Community: In the Face of Loneliness.


EMI is a dynamic program designed specifically for emerging pastors, to include: Teaching Elders, Ruling Elders, Commissioned Lay Pastors, and Chaplains within their first five years of ecclesiastical call to service. It is crafted to provide you with valuable insights, resources, and a supportive community as you embark on this rewarding journey in ministry.


EMI is a three-year program providing emerging pastors with:


  • Professional Development: Gain practical skills and knowledge to excel in your ministry.
  • Networking Opportunities: Connect with fellow emerging pastors and mid-council leaders.
  • Mentorship: Benefit from the wisdom of experienced mentors in the field.
  • Community Building: Form lasting connections with peers who understand your journey.


The cost for the week is only $375 which includes your registration, lodging, and meals. If you are within your 1st -5th year of your call, we invite you to register for the Early Ministry Institute by completing the registration form: Your participation will not only enrich your ministry but contribute to the vibrant community of emerging leaders within our Synod.


For additional details or if you have any questions, please reach out to the Synod's Administrative Coordinator, Rev. Dr. Nichol Burris. You can contact her via email at or by telephone at (315) 460-5282


We look forward to welcoming you to the Early Ministry Institute and supporting you in your journey of growth and service.




EMI Design Team

Rev. Bradford Morgan, Moderator

Rev. Michelle Allen, Co-Moderator

Rev. Anita Wright

Rev. Robin Curras

Rev. Jeff Geary

Rev. Jeff Courter

Rev. Heather Kirk-Davidoff

Rev. Dr. Nichol Burris

Rob Trawick

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Indigenous People's Day Offering

In response to the 225th General Assembly’s call to create a stronger relationship with our sisters and brothers in PC(USA) Indigenous Churches, the Synod of the Northeast is creating a Synod-wide Indigenous People Day Special Offering to be collected on February 18th, 2024. The money raised in this special offering will go directly to our Synod’s four Indigenous Churches to assist them in building repairs. Be on the lookout at the beginning of the new year for bulletin inserts for this Special Offering which will highlight each of our Indigenous congregations.

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A Special Synod Assembly Zoom Meeting

A special Synod Assembly Zoom Meeting was held Saturday, December 9th for the Discernment Team to present the results of their First Phase Report. The team elected at the 2022 Synod Assembly consists of Joseph Chu, Eastern Korean American Presbytery; Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Albany Presbytery; Holly Haile Thompson, Long Island Presbytery; JyungIn Lee, Coastlands Presbytery; Magdalene McClarrin, Long Island Presbytery; Sabrina Slater, Geneva Presbytery; Eric Thomas, New York City Presbytery; and Dakota Whitaker, Northern New England Presbytery. Okokon Udo, from LeaderWise, serves as the Discernment Team’s Consultant. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley, Synod Transitional Leader, serves as staff to the Discernment Team. The team provided the Synod Assembly with details from the report. The report itself can be found by clicking below.

Click for Report

Questions from Commissioners included the following: Will the name change from A New Way Forward?  What does inclusivity and full inclusion mean?  How do we engage with rural congregations and presbyteries? What does full inclusion look like? How will the group be formed to make final determinations?  How will the New Way Forward do more bottom-up ministry in communities and people's lives?  While answers were provided, it was noted that the Discernment Team has now completed Phase One.  These questions and others that people may offer will be thoroughly discussed and later answered as the work of the Discernment Team continues. 

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Submit Your Commissioners for the 226th General Assembly

As of the December 11th notice from the Office of the General Assembly, 6 of the 19 presbyteries in the Synod of the Northeast have submitted the names of their General Assembly Commissioners with or without a YAAD. As we approach the holidays and people are focused on Advent, Christmas and taking time off, please remember to get the names of your elected 2024 GA Commissioners and YAADs into the Office of General Assembly by December 28th. Also please remember to share the opportunity for volunteering at General Assembly widely within your presbyteries. At this time when different models of the GA meeting are being tried, it is important to get as many people involved as possible.

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2024 Synod PJC Meeting Dates

The Synod PJC (SPJC) has established the following dates to meet in 2024 for trials or appeal hearings. Locations are to be determined. If the SPJC Executive Committee determines that there are no cases before them, or no cases are ready to be heard by the advertised three-day date, those dates will be canceled, and the PJC will move forward to the next set of advertised dates.

  • April 15 - 17
  • June 3 - 5
  • September 30 – October 2
  • December 2-4
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The Risk of Being Woke

Book Study with the Author Mr. Curtis Paul DeYoung

You can order your book online (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Curtiss Paul DeYoung

Curtiss Paul DeYoung is the Co-CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches. Its twenty-seven member communions come from Historic Black, Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, and Greek Orthodox churches in Minnesota. DeYoung previously served as the Executive Director of the historic faith-based racial justice organization Community Renewal Society in Chicago, IL. Dr. DeYoung was the Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN.

 Rev. DeYoung is an ordained minister in the Church of God (Anderson, IN). He has served congregations in Minneapolis, New York City, and Washington, DC.

 DeYoung earned a Doctor of Education from the University of St. Thomas (MN), a Master of Divinity from Howard University School of Theology (Washington, DC), and a Bachelor of Arts from Anderson University (Anderson, IN).

 He is an author and editor of thirteen books on racial justice, reconciliation, and cultural competency. With South African anti-apartheid theologian Allan Boesak, he co-authored Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism (Orbis). He was on the editorial team for The Peoples’ Bible (Fortress). His most recent book is The Risk of Being Woke: Sermonic Reflections for Activists (Judson).

 Curtiss DeYoung has been married to Karen since 1984. They have three adult children.

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315-446-5990 * *