Grace Notes in the Desert

Grace Notes in the Desert is written for the saints of Rio Grande Presbyterian Church and the surrounding community.

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Grace Notes acknowledges we need God's grace and forgivness as much as the desert water.



Being a Christian is a lifelong journey to embody
the scandalous love of Jesus Christ.”
--Roger Gench, pastor

For one week in August, 60 pastors attended the Synod of the SW’s Kaleidoscope Conference at Ghost Ranch Retreat Center in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Roger Gench, Senior Pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (located 2 blocks from the White House) and his wife, Frances, professor of 20 years at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA--led us in a conference titled ‘Struggling with Scripture’.

A more apt title might have been “Wrestling with Scripture”--not unlike Jacob, who wrestled a man all night on the banks of the river Jabbok, and would not let him go until he blessed him--as, together, we spent a week learning, what I would call, ‘how to overcome a superficial reading of the Bible to grasp its deeper, internal meaning’; and ‘the importance of faithful interpretation in light of the whole of scripture.”

Wrestling with Scripture is an act of faithfulness”, said Frances Gench, who more than proved her commitment to do so; &, despite the inherent difficulties, and certain cultural and historical abuses some scripture has engendered, rather than ‘throw the baby out with the bath water, Francis advised,'there is much to glean and learn in the wrestle.'

Roger and Frances facilitated days and nights of lively discussion among those present(colleagues who’s views I found genuinely insightful and meaningful). I was thankful for the opportunity to be a part of what, for me, was a treasure trove of theological discourse/resources, grateful for the opportunity for my own continuing education.

As another church year begins (traditionally in September), I hope you will see in these pages ways you can continue to embark on your own continuing education, here, (and, also, offer suggestions about what we yet can do, together, to bless one another and the world around us).

Blessings on the Journey,
A Pastor in the Desert


Fruitful Leadership

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Called Back to the Well workshop with pastors, police and firefighter chaplains, and interesting as sundry group of people.

The Rev. Paul Hopkins, past director of the Samaritan Counseling Center for 20 years, was the leader and the workshop, titled after his book, called “Pursuing Pastoral Excellence, Pathways to Fruitful Leadership.”

For those of you who may not know about this book published this year by Alban Press (and I didn’t until I happened to attend this workshop), Paul Hopkins dedicates a chapter to each of seven local pastors whose ministry, he believes, reflects the following characteristics of fruitful leadership, namely that it is:


As Paul puts it, “Life in ministry must constantly be grounded in the lively practice of faith and confident hope in God’s providence, even through the dark days of discouragement and loneliness that inevitably come for most pastors. Staying connected to the vine of Christ is the most essential task. Fruitfulness springs from tender and tangled branches watered and fed and pruned by the vine grower.”

The same could be said of all of us growing in faith, in hope, in love, in Christ. I hope together, we are cultivating purpose, authenticity, relationships, along with a servant’s heart that is adaptable, persistent and spiritual, in our journey with God.

This is my prayer for all of us at Rio Grande, and, particularly our young people this summer as they embark on a week-long backpacking adventure with others in northern New Mexico: that, together, we cultivate purpose, authenticity, relationships, and a servant’s heart, that is adaptable, persistent and spiritual, rooted and grounded in Christ.

Blessings on the Journey,
A Pastor in the Desert