Nicaragua Partnership Blog


Three Immanuelites, Debbie Breeding, Susan Lawrence, and Brian Gaeta Symonds, were part of the Presbytery of the Pacific’s Nicaragua Partnership mission trip this month.  An excerpt from the team’s blog:

Through these relationships, I have been blessed but also challenged. Challenged to look at life in ways that would be difficult if not experiencing Nicaragua, or being in relationship with the amazing people we have met there. Challenged to look at poverty, wealth, dignity, intelligence, governments, cultures, individual dynamics, group dynamics, and a myriad of other things through a lens of God’s grace and justice. This is transforming indeed. I pray that we are, and continue to be, agents of transformation for our partners as well. And, I pray that we together, with God’s help, help to transform the world.

I would like to leave you with a quote from an Australian Aboriginal Elder, Lilla Watson: “If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Debbie Breeding, Immanuel Presbyterian Church

Read more here.


Interim Food Pantry Director


We are happy to announce that Brian Gaeta-Symonds will be stepping in as interim Food Pantry Director! Brian has helped keep the Immanuel Food Pantry running for several months while Nancy Spear was out on medical leave. He brings great energy and compassion to the pantry, continuing the ministry of accompanying the hungry in our community. Welcome, Brian!


¡Nos da mucho gusto de anunciar que Brian Gaeta-Symonds va a asumir la posición de Director del Banco de Comida interino! Brian nos ayudo a mantener el banco de comida por varios meses en que Nancy Spear estaba fuera por días de permiso para ausentarse por razones médicas. Brian trae mucha energía y compasión al banco de comida, continuando el ministerio de acompañar a los hambrientos de nuestra comunidad. ¡Bienvenido Brian!


Snapshot 7.16.13


Our own Brian Symonds


Reflection 12.21.12


Companion for The Journey

“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)

This holiday season began with an unfortunate event…I was let go from my job. It seemed as if it were the end of the world. I was scared, nervous, and anxious. I could only keep asking myself, “What do I do now?”

I turned to my family and let them know and I even found some wonderful emotional and financial support. But I knew something was missing. After spending a couple weeks wallowing in my sorrow (so-to-speak) and while attending Sunday morning worship I remembered hearing about the Immanuel Food Pantry. I found Nancy Spear after the service and asked her when the Food Pantry was open. I then let her know that I would be coming in to volunteer and help out at the next opportunity.

That next Tuesday morning at the Food Pantry changed my life. It was as if my Spirit was reignited and charged full of life again. I had very quickly realized that I had not stepped foot in the Immanuel Food Pantry for the entire nearly 7 years I have been a member at IPC…and it was literally foot steps away every Sunday morning. That one experience flooded my heart and my thoughts with the internship I served in New York City at the Jan Hus Homeless Outreach Center. Names and faces, and many good relationships came to mind. Immanuel offers very similar relationships. In fact, Nancy Spear cares for the recipients at the food pantry as if they were her neighbors, friends, and even family; because they are.

Losing a job quickly reminds you of your very human-ness; such as not having health insurance or any income. The same Sunday I asked Nancy about the Food Pantry, I noticed that the Healing Center’s Parish Nurse, Brenda Cox was offering flu shots after the service. I get a flu shot every year, but this time I couldn’t go see my regular doctor for this seemingly simple procedure. Brenda not only offered me a flu shot, but she introduced me to the free services provided by the Parrish Nurse and her staff. I made an appointment then and there. When I showed up for my appointment, Kerry (one of the staff nurses) spoke with me. She joked with me and comforted me, and she even took time to learn about journey and family.  And then when the check-up was over, she spoke more with me about what I can do to better my health and stay healthy, and offered me assistance in finding health care that I could afford or that was even free near my home. I left feeling as if they not only cared for my immediate concerns, but that they cared for my future health and wellbeing; because they do.

I have been spending my Tuesday’s hanging out at the church office working on some stuff I’m involved in outside of Immanuel. While there I spoke with Myra Tapia. She introduced me to her massage and energy therapy services at the Healing Center. I decided to make an appointment. I thought, “why not, I have the time.” I showed up the next week on time for my appointment with Myra. She welcomed me into a space that was warm and immediately relaxing. Myra invited me to sit down and we simply spoke about me. She asked about aches and pain, stress, and home and family. She informed me of what was going to happen and assured me that she was there to listen to me and to how my body responded to the massage. She then proceeded with the massage and almost too soon it was over. She cared for me by helping me sit up, she got me some water, and then we talked a little more. She asked me about the massage and helped me better understand what my body told her and what I can do to help myself. Myra took care of me as if she cared about my body and about my wellbeing; because she does.

There is a difference between resting after stressful work and then finding rest in Christ’s yoke (work). I was burdened with the yoke, or work of the world and now I was ready and I decided to explore the yoke of Christ. I did this by partaking in that yoke in its form at Immanuel. The Food Pantry, the Parish Nurse services, and the Healing Center are only a few ways in which Christ shared his yoke with me. You see volunteering at the Food Pantry takes a bit of work and energy, but that which you receive is the comfort of knowing you were involved in the work of Christ. Seeing the Parrish Nurse required me to step outside of my comfort zone, which is risky and scary at times. What I received from taking that step is care from people who were looking to send me on my way more knowledgeable and wise about caring about my physical body.  And then visiting Myra and receiving a massage was more than just simply physical. Myra asked me to share with her about my pain so that she could help me work through it.

What I found in all three of these experiences was companionship on my journey. I found care and comfort. I found work that was meaningful because it is Christ’s work. This all fed my Spirit. I am changed and transformed forever by what was provided by these kind and warm friends at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. When I let go of the painful burden I was carrying and took on the yoke of Christ through Immanuel, I penetrated the very heart of Immanuel and its people. I encourage all, whatever your journey looks like, to check out any of these experiences for yourself and learn what companionship can and does look like.

Wonderfully Cared For,

Brian S. Symonds


Snapshots: Project Mercy 10.13.12


Photos courtesy of friend-of-Immanuel Nancy Norris Stirling.  Featuring Nancy and our own Nelson Palencia, Brian Symonds, Matthias Peterson-Brandt, Mason Funk, and fearless leader Richard Prince.

GA220: Report from Brian Symonds + Informa de Brian Symonds


In My Humble Estimation

220th General Assembly of the PC (USA)

            I have been to several General Assemblies in the past decade, but never before had I attended as an Elder Commissioner.  This was a first for me. I had become accustomed to being on my own schedule and attending only those events and meetings that not only truly appealed to me, but those that might be of special interest. But this time, I was serving in a different and more committed capacity.  The members of Pacific Presbytery, you all, elected me to go and work hard for the future of our life together as a denomination.

I was assigned in May 2012 to my committee: Mid Council Issues.  I poured over overtures (church legislation proposals) running the gamut from congregations asking to leave one presbytery to go to another and then all the way to discerning whether or not Synods were a viable resource and if non-geographic presbyteries were the way of the future. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me. The 2 ½ days in committee were long and yet fruitful.  We spent the first 1 ½ days practicing group-building exercises and then amazingly got through all our work on the second full day.

The last few days were spent in plenary.  This is when all the commissioners and delegates join each other to hear all 19 committee reports and then deliberate until a decision/vote is reached on each overture. I was proud to speak three times at a microphone and get my face plastered on the huge projection screens in front of not only the 1000 of us there, but the hundreds watching us online from their homes. Being able to stand and proclaim firmly in front of the body that which I truly believe about an issue is a spirit-filled gift for me.

I ate meals with familiar friends, including Tony de la Rosa, Wendy Tajima, and Linda Culbertson and I made new friends along the way.  There were celebrations with fancy meals, Women of Faith breakfasts, morning worship experiences, an exhibit hall with too many booths to see in those few days, and even a dance party.  I have always said that GA is like a big family reunion; lots of food and celebrations, a few disagreements, and even moments of asking for someone’s name, but you always feel like you’re at home.

It was, this year and continues to be each year I attend, an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. I can only encourage others to consider serving the larger church body at General Assembly as a commissioner in years to come. Maybe I’ll see you there and we can get together for a meal, just like family.


En mi Humilde Opinión

220th Asamblea General del PC (USA)

             Durante la última década he asistido varias Asambleas Generales, pero nunca antes como Anciano Comisario.  Esta fue la primera vez para mí.  Me acostumbre a estar en mi propio programa y asistiendo solo esos eventos y reuniones que no solo me interesaban, pero también aquellos que tendrán interés especial.  Pero este tiempo, estaba yo sirviendo en una diferente y más dedicada capaz.  Los miembros del Presbiterio del Pacifico, todos ustedes, me eligieron para ir y trabajar duro para el futuro de nuestra vida juntos como una denominación.

En mayo de 2012 fui nombrado a mi comité: Asuntos de Medio-Consejo.  Me volqué sobre las oberturas (propuestas de la legislación de la iglesia) el cual abarca toda la gama de congregaciones solicitando su salida de un presbiterio para ir a otro a percibiendo si o no los sínodos eran un recurso viable y si presbiterios no geográficos eran el futuro.  Obviamente tuve mucho trabajo.  Los 2 ½ días en el comité fueron largos pero fructíferos.  Pasamos los primeros 1 ½ practicando ejercicios para fortalecer el grupo y increíblemente hicimos todo nuestro trabajo durante el próximo día.

Los últimos días se pasaron en plenario.  Esto es cuando todos los comisarios y delegados se unen para escuchar los informes de todos los 19 comités y deliberar hasta que llegamos a una decisión/voto por cada obertura.  Estuve orgulloso de poder hablar tres veces en el micrófono y tener mi cara en las grandes pantallas de proyección en frente de no solo los 1000 presentes, pero los cientos que nos estaban viendo de sus casas.  Poder estar allí y proclamar firmemente en frente de todos lo que creo acerca un asuntos en su don que me llena el espíritu.

Comí con amigos conocidos, incluso Tony de la Rosa, Wendy Tajima, y Linda Culbertson y también hice nuevos amigos.  Habían celebraciones con cenas extravagantes, cenas de las Mujeres de Fe, experiencias de adoración en la mana, una exhibición con mas cabinas que podemos ver en un día y hasta una fiesta de baile.  Siempre he dicho que el GA es como una grande reunión de familia, mucha comida y celebraciones, unos desacuerdos y hasta momentos cuando preguntas el nombre de alguien, pero siempre te sientes como si estas en la casa.

Sigue siendo, este año y cada año que sigo asistiendo, una experiencia que se quedara conmigo para siempre.  Solo puede animar a otros a considerar a servir la general iglesia en la Asamblea General como comisarios durante los próximos años.  Tal vez los miro allí y podemos comer juntos, como una familia.


Brian Symonds reports on the More Light Presbyterians Conference


MLP Conference
September 2-4, 2011

I was so privileged to be invited by More Light Presbyterians to be one of their four keynote preachers at the annual More Light Presbyterians national conference in Rochester, NY.  I was asked to come and share my story of how I celebrated the passage of Ammendment 10A, allowing the ordination of openly practicing Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender deacons, ruling elders, and teaching elders (Ministers of Word and Sacrament).

So, I shared by story of how More Light Presbyterians have been walking this journey with me these past 8 years as I moved forward in my journey towards ordination.  I likened the gift of More Light to the little boy’s gift of fishes and loaves from which Jesus used to feed the five thousand in the Gospels.  This weekend in Rochester turned into a celebration of stories; triumphs and tragedies.

And, the question was asked, not only by the PC (USA) Moderator, Cynthia Bolbach, but by most of us, “How do we live into 10A?”  This question struck a chord with all of us at the conference.  It was pressed upon our hearts; we, as a denomination, have said that we should ordain all who are called to ministry leadership in our congregations and in the life of the church, now we have to put our money where our mouth is.  We all have to step up to the challenge.  Immanuel has been doing just this by ordaining GLBT persons as deacons and elders, and by embracing their pastoral leadership and the church’s future leadership, including myself.

I was so pleased to go as not only a representative from Immanuel, but as one of your nurtured own.  I thank you for your continued love and support, and I am proud to be part of an inclusive and just ministry that is sweeping the denomination.

With A Gracious Peace,
Brian S. Symonds

Conferencia de MLP
2-4 de septiembre de 2011

Tuvo el privilegio de ser invitado por los Presbiterianos de Mas Luz, a ser uno de sus cuatro ponentes principales en la anual conferencia nacional de los Presbiterianos de Mas Luz en Rochester, NY.  Pidieron que venga para compartir mi historia de cómo yo celebre el pase de la Enmienda 10A, que permite la ordinación de los/as diáconos/as, gobernantes ancianos/as y maestros/as ancianos/as que son gay, lesbianas, bisexuales y transgender (Ministros de Palabra y Sacramento).

Así que compartí la historia de cómo los Presbiterianos Mas Luz han tomada esta jornada conmigo durante los últimos 8 años mientras que avance en mi jornada hacia ordinación.  Compare el regalo de Mas Luz al regalo del niño de pescado y pan que Jesús uso para alimentar cinco mil personas en las escrituras.  Ese fin de semana en Rochester se convirtió en una celebración de historias; triunfos y tragedias.

Y la cuestión fue preguntada, no solo por la Moderadora del PC (USA), Cynthia Bolbach, pero por la mayoría de nosotros, “¿Cómo vivimos en 10A?”  Esta cuestión sonó con todos nosotros en la conferencia.  Fue algo que apretó nuestra corazones; que nosotros, como una denominación, hemos dicho que todos que son llamados al liderazgo de ministerio en nuestras congregaciones y en la vida de la iglesia, deben de ser ordenados, y ahora podemos actuar.  Todos hemos tenido que aceptar el reto.  Immanuel ha estado haciendo esto por medio de ordenar personas GLBT como diáconos/diaconas y ancianos/as, y por medio de abrazar su liderazgo pastoral y el futuro liderazgo de la iglesia, incluyendo yo mismo.

Fue contento a ir no solo como un representante de Immanuel, pero como uno cultivado de sus propios.  Les agradezco por so continuo amor y apoyo, y estoy orgulloso a ser parte de una inclusiva y justo ministerio que está cambiando la denominación.

Con  una paz cortes,
Brian S. Symonds