Lakeside welcomes Presbyterian leader

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lakeside Presbyterian Church recently welcomed a visit from Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator for the Presbyterian General Assembly. He holds the highest office of the Presbyterian Church.

The Tuscon, Ariz., man made a quick trip to a few select spots in the Midwest before heading south to assist in the Katrina clean-up efforts. Before leaving Storm Lake, he was treated to a meal at the Southeast Asian Church.

His convictions to the church are genuine and those in attendance at the special reception arranged for him showed the utmost respect for their leader.

"I have so little time," he said of the short visit in Storm Lake. "I feel like Zorro - make my Z and get out."

Though his visit was short, he did make an impact.

Ufford-Chase grew up in Amish country in Pennsylvania. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he related many stories from his childhood and is thankful his life was molded in the church setting.

He talked about the church that had a membership of 1,800 people in York, Penn. One of his earliest memories of cross-racial relationships is from the church. It was in the mid-'60s that this downtown church opened its doors to the congregation of an African-American church that closed its doors. The relationships of the people from the combining of the two churches came during the years when racial problems were at its height. For the most part, the people welcomed each other's presence.

Ufford-Chase had an awesome youth pastor that got him involved in leadership. He went on to Princeton to attend the same seminary his dad did. He discovered a problem when "I saw they were preparing me to be my father."

He had greater issues he wanted to tackle, particularly those that dealt with social justice.

After getting away from the seminary, he did a great deal of soul searching. He spent a great deal of time in Nicaragua and Guatemala. He was among the war-torn people and found it compelling to want to help.

Eighteen years ago he helped found Borderlinks which assists people coming across the Mexican border through the church. "We are ambivalent to these two worlds," he said. "I have seen the best of who we can be and the worst of we are. This is my conviction."

His service as the moderator has helped spread the word of the church and the good people who call themselves Presbyterians.

He has done a great deal of traveling with and for the church. "I thrive on being with people," he said.

The 40-ish man has been with a lot of people from many different backgrounds. He is truly impressed with the young people of today.

"The youth of this generation is a gift from God. They are characterized by wanting to do something relevant and meaningful in this world. The young adults as I see them are on a mission."

That conviction, he said, is very welcoming to the people of the church.

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