We are honored and blessed to have this tireless worker in God’s vineyard to bring us a word that could not be more timely or relevant to the work of the Church in 2019. While the Poor People’s Campaign (which she co-chairs with Rev. Dr. William Barber) was launched in 2018 (on the 50thanniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s original call for such a campaign), Liz Theoharis has been working to build a movement led by the poor for over a decade. Not that long ago, Liz struggled to be approved for ordination to her work. The concern? That her stance that the end of poverty is a moral imperative ran counter to Christ’s words that “the poor you will have with you always.” Liz rejected the interpretation of this text as resignation on Jesus’ part. Instead in her book “Always With Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor,” she upends traditional understanding of this text, and of Jesus’ entire ministry among the poor; raising a clarion call to “fight poverty, not the poor.”
Dr. Theoharis’ gentle spirit and compassionate presence have gathered together a movement that addresses unflinchingly the foremost issues of our time. She was truly born for such a time as this.
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church, the director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary and the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. She has spent the past two decades organizing amongst the poor and dispossessed in the United States. She has led and won major economic and racial justice campaigns across the country, organized hundreds of trainings and bible studies with grassroots leaders, written in major national and international publications and recently published Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor and Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.
In 2018, alongside the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, Theoharis helped to launch the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Over the coming years, the campaign will organize poor people across race, religion, geography, political party and other so-called lines of division to fuel a moral revolution of values in the country. Theoharis has been recognized for her work by many national bodies, including the Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn for Peace, the New York Council on American-Islamic Relations and the 2018 Politico Magazine Top 50 list of “thinkers, doers and visionaries who are driving American politics and policy”.
Currently serving as co-moderator of the General Assembly, we are grateful to have a gifted and dedicated member of the Synod of the Northeast as our guest preacher this year. Cindy’s hands on, innovative approach to presbytery leadership has been a model for the changing landscape of Presbyterian mid-council work. Her groundedness, commitment to listening, and hard work have earned her respect from the forests of Maine, to the harbor in Boston, and now across the country. Among her many contributions to the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England, Cindy spear-headed a massive response and recovery campaign after the devastating winter storms of 2015, which included a tour of affected communities, fostering of resources, and creative approaches to long term recovery. Her wisdom and compassion, her willingness to go wherever she is called to meet God’s people have ensured that her work will have lasting impact throughout the Northeast, and the Church.
The Reverend Cindy Kohlmann graduated from Whitworth College in 1995 with a B.A. in Theatre and Religion and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary with an M.Div. in 1999. While in seminary, Cindy served in the U.S. Naval Reserves as a Chaplain Candidate, where she learned to go to where the sailors worked and gathered in order to do ministry. Discerning a call to parish ministry, she was ordained in 1999 to serve as the solo pastor of the New Jersey Presbyterian Church in Carlisle, OH. In 2005, she married the Rev. Eric Markman and moved to Massachusetts, where she served the Clinton Presbyterian Church for 8 1/2 years. During her pastorate in Clinton, Cindy helped the church become multicultural in worship, leadership, and fellowship, welcoming immigrants from West Africa and Brazil into all aspects of the church’s ministry.
In 2010, Cindy added a temporary position with the Presbytery of Northern New England (PNNE). After PNNE went through two years of visioning and reorganization, Cindy was asked to stay on in the newly designed role of Resource Presbyter. At the end of 2014, she said goodbye to the Clinton church, and began a full-time position shared between the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England on January 1, 2015. As Resource Presbyter, Cindy provides leadership to both Presbyteries, facilitating conversations about vision and structure, designing opportunities for leadership training, planning programming during Presbytery meetings, and connecting congregations and pastors with both local and denominational resources. To provide balance, she loves walking and running, watching birds and animals and being outside, and reading. In addition to her husband Eric, she has two amazing adult step-daughters and two extremely opinionated cats.
Elder Warren Cooper is a performing artist, composer, producer, broadcaster, educator, music minister and inter-faith missionary. A native of Philadelphia, he has been a professional musician since the age of 9. He studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Warren has emerged as a trend-setting pioneer in jazz worship and sacred jazz music. Among others, Warren serves as a Teaching Artist for the Kimmel Center Jazz Education Program, and continues his groundbreaking musical work in the fusion of earth rights and human rights as he pioneers new pathways of awareness concerning worship community health, outreach ministry growth and social issue engagement.
Coral Ecuménico Cántico Nuevo
More than just a choir, Cántico Nuevo is a gathering of Latinx Christian leaders committed to living out the good news of God’s love for ALL people and, indeed, for all creation. An intentional multi denominational project, Cántico Nuevo has engaged diverse ministries energized by Hispanic communities of faith and with the aim to reach to the larger faith and social community. More than a choir, Cántio Nuevo is a community committed to the challenge of embodying the good news of God's love for all people in being an open and welcoming space for all, especially to leaders involved in the worship life of local congregations.
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4.14b, NIV
“(Jesus) said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.”
John 6.6, NRSV