Love knows no bounds

June 30, 2020 by Emily Enders Odom

If a sacrament may be defined as a visible sign of an invisible grace, in a similarly sacramental fashion, God’s grace and love are on abundant, if mostly virtual, display through ‘Links of Love,’ a colorful paper chain representing Presbyterian generosity across the denomination, country and globe.

Although “Links of Love” — a simple initiative in which individuals, congregations and mid councils were invited to create paper chain links for every gift they made through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog — was originally intended to be displayed at the 224th General Assembly (2020) in Baltimore, COVID-19 interrupted those plans.

“When the pandemic happened, we thought that this great idea might be lost, and then it started happening,” said Bryce Wiebe, director of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. “Then, one by one, boxes of links kept arriving at the Presbyterian Center. And, as General Assembly was approaching, more and more shipments continued to pour in. It called to mind the disciples throwing their nets over the opposite side of the boat, reaping a harvest of fish we never anticipated.”

Wiebe said that the growing paper chain — which will now continue growing virtually both at and after the PC(USA)’s first-ever online assembly gathering — is evidence of the church’s commitment not only to those in need, but also to the spirit of Presbyterian connectionalism. Its original goal of reaching 1,000 feet has been superseded by a paper chain designed to encircle the whole world.

“Especially now, Presbyterians are showing that our connections are not bound to the building in which we find ourselves and are not even bound to a convention center in Baltimore this summer,” Wiebe added. “Our connection means so much more than that.”

Now in its seventh year, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, available in print and online, is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including aid for refugees, access to clean water and helping to end hunger.

Although congregations and mid councils have been unable to hold in-person worship services or meetings since mid-March, both their early and subsequent efforts to assemble paper chains have been recorded, captured and gratefully acknowledged.

In March, the Presbytery of Northern New England, under the leadership of its resource presbyter, the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly (2018), received its assembly offering, over $800 in gifts for Links of Love, made either in person or online.

“Because the Presbytery of Northern New England is made up of small churches spread across four states, we know that what we accomplish by coming together is greater than what we can accomplish by ourselves,” said Kohlmann. “As a Matthew 25 mid council, supporting the Links of Love challenge gave us an opportunity to introduce congregations to the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, while empowering people around the world through our gifts. We have always tried to connect our congregations with the larger mission and vision of the PC(USA), inviting them to respond to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance appeals, give to the Special Offerings, and providing opportunities to engage with the work of the church on every level—local, regional, national and international.”

When the newly elected co-moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020), Elona Street-Stewart, executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, and the Rev. Gregory Bentley, pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama, arrive at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville this week, Giving Catalog staff members will ensure that a length of paper chain in the shape of a heart will find its way into their open hands, assuring them of a grateful denomination’s prayers, love and support.

“Sometimes individual Presbyterians or smaller congregations can feel like their impact is unnoticed. But through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog and Links of Love, we know that lives are changed,” Kohlmann said. “And where lives are changed, God is glorified, and God’s kin-dom comes a little closer to Earth.”

Participation is easy … Link up today and be included — click here.

Tammy Warren of Presbyterian News Service provided additional reporting.

This was originally published for Presbyterian News Service on June 24, 2020.

read more stories: