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Reverend Maggi Henderson, Pastor

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International Peacemaker
Rev. Samuel Akhtar
Preaching and Teaching
Sunday - October 1st

Reverend Samuel Akhtar will be preaching and teaching at Old First on Sunday, October 1st.

Please see the Presbyterian News article below, at the left, for more about Reverend Akhtar and the Presbyterian International Peacemakers program.

Visit Our Two New Pages About Helping Refugees

Helping Refugees - an overview of what we do.

What You Can Do to Help Refugees - a comprehensive collection of suggested actions and resources.

Hurricane Harvey Donations

To support recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, click here. You’ll be taken to the PC(USA) website to donate securely and quickly.

New in Worship:
Prayer Table at Coffee Hour

The Presbyterian Planning Calendar includes a Day of Prayer for the Creation in September. It's an ecumenical day also recognized and promoted by Pope Francis. So we are inviting you to share your prayers for peace throughout God’s creation during the month of September. See this month's Shared Life for more information.

All Church Retreat
October 20-22, 2017

The annual all-church retreat will be held at Mount Hermon, October 20–22, 2017. Mark your calendars and be sure to see this month's Shared Life for more information.

Old First Presbyterian Church is an inclusive community of faith united by trust in God and faith in Jesus Christ. We warmly welcome all who accept and respond to God's saving grace in Jesus Christ and who desire to participate in the life and ministry of this church.

Established in 1849, we are the oldest active Protestant congregation in California. We are constantly renewed through a wide spectrum of activities, and of course, through new members and visitors.

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Maggi's Musings - September 2017

The weekend of August 26, I felt led to write something in response to the fear, racism and hate that seemed to spill into San Francisco. I wanted to put something on our doors that said we are about peace, hope, justice and love. I wanted to write about the kind of peace that is hard work, that listens to pain, that admits our own complicity in hurt and hate, but that doesn’t give up.
The statement is below. It is nothing new, but it was a challenge to say what I believed, what I hoped, how I wanted to lead as your pastor, in just a few words. My answer to that challenge is what follows in the box below.

I am thankful that, as a person of faith, and as a Presbyterian, in particular, I have many reminders and challenges that keep me involved as a peacemaker. One of them is the yearly Peace and Global Witness Offering on World Communion Sunday, October 1. On that day we will have the amazing privilege to have an International peacemaker the Reverend Samuel Akhtar from Pakistan among us.

Mr. Akhtar is the son of a Presbyterian minister who was the first Pakistani “home missionary” installed by the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. He grew up as the only Christian student attending a public school. Today he serves as the organizing pastor of an ethnic congregation in the Presbytery of Chicago
Mr. Akhtar will preach and meet with us after worship. And for the coming month, I will be adding peace prayers to the Old First Face Book page to lead us in praying and working for peace.

Peace, Maggi

We at Old First Presbyterian Church believe
that all are made in the image of God.

We seek to follow the ways of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

So we pray for peace and work for justice.

May our words and our actions follow the model of St. Francis who said,
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”
Or in other words, be peace, be love, be justice, be hope.

Pakistani minister to share struggles and success in reaching people of different faiths

Samuel Akhtar to visit U.S. churches this fall for International Peacemakers
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Ministers of all Christian denominations can tell you about the challenges of sharing the gospel in today’s world. For those who serve God in other countries, that challenge can be even more difficult. Samuel Akhtar knows this firsthand, having grown up in Pakistan.

Akhtar is the son of a Presbyterian minister who was also the first Pakistani home missionary installed by the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. As a child, his father preferred he attend public school where he was the only Christian student in the building.

“Initially, it seemed very tough to me, but later on, I adapted adequately and became immune to the biased behavior of the teachers,” he said. “But my confidence grew tremendously as a Christian. I worked very hard in studies and as a result, most of the teachers started liking me, except for a few.”

Having secured good grades, Akhtar was selected for admission to King Edward Medical College Lahore, one of the most prestigious medical schools in Pakistan. Later, he accepted God’s call and joined the theological seminary. Upon graduation, Akhtar served as an associate pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Sargodha.

Religious persecution was a daily struggle for Akhtar during his ministry years in Pakistan.

“Sharing of the gospel is totally banned and someone caught doing so would be rigorously punished,” he said. “The abuse of blasphemy laws has become a problem of greater concern. Most of the time, the majority of people abuse the laws to seek personal vendettas from poor Christians over land feud, social conflicts or malice. The victims of blasphemy laws are confined to jail long before their unfortunate fate is ascertained.”

Despite the setbacks, Akhtar says the church of Jesus Christ is still thriving. Through visiting various college campuses in Pakistan, he found receptive students.

“We mostly found atheist students unwilling to engage about the gospel, the second were Jewish and third, Hindus. The most congenial to talk to were Muslim students,” Akhtar said. “They would always talk about religion very nicely and openly. We developed good friendships with them and always attended their functions and programs held in the college or university.”

Akhtar now serves in the Chicago Presbytery, saying his stay in the United States was accidental. He was invited to preach at a religious convention and arrived just two weeks before Sept. 11, 2001.

“Consequently, the flight schedules were disrupted and my stay in the United States was delayed. I applied for and received an extension and joined United Christian Bible School in Philadelphia, earning a Certification in Religious Studies,” Akhtar said. “The liaison of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was looking for a pastor to organize an ethnic congregation in Chicago. I accepted and started my ministry in the fall of 2001. I have been serving God by serving God’s people in the United States.”

After settling in the U.S., Akhtar was able to bring his family and continue his work.

“We decided to stay in this free country, where we could make use of the freedom of speech, freedom of practicing religion, creating friendships that would ultimately lead to bridge-building,” he said. “We have been successful to some extent and a few converts and seekers have joined in our congregation who are very pleased with the balanced teachings of the Bible and respectful attitude extended toward them.”

Akhtar credits the PC(USA) for supporting him in his transition to the U.S.

“It is merely because of their trust and openness toward me that I still continue to remain loyal with the church, contrary to the other Pakistani immigrant congregations that left the church years ago,” he said. “I am invited to attend all meetings and the Presbytery has always been supportive of my ministry. I am proud to be a member of the Chicago Presbytery.”

Akhtar will be one of 16 peacemakers visiting churches and institutions across the U.S. between Sept. 22 and Oct. 16. He says his message will center around reaching and ministering to those in need.

“We have to present the salvation gospel in love and humility, respecting people’s faith traditions. Love is the prerequisite that gives us impetus to respect others’ belief system,” he said. “While presenting the gospel, we have to be as humble as possible. We cannot be proud of any qualification to earn salvation, which is the gift of God and received unconditionally. All human beings have been created in the image of God, Jesus atoned for everyone on the cross. The condition is to believe in him, according to God’s plan of salvation.”