Professional Coaches Highlights of Renewal Program

Thanks to a grant awarded in 2022 from the National Clergy Renewal Program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the First United Presbyterian Church, Las Vegas, planned an ambitious program of congregational renewal while its pastor, Rev. Katie Palmer took a three-month sabbatical for clergy renewal. And then the hills erupted in a fast-moving fire that consumed more than three hundred thousand acres of land, countless properties, and the livelihoods of many. Pastor Katie, as she is known by her congregation, knew immediately her place was with her church family and community, not going on sabbatical. The grantor organization agreed and allowed the church to reschedule the renewal plans and sabbatical to 2023. On May 6, FUPC will begin Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit in a period of renewal and exploration. At no cost to participants, the summer-long activities include –

• five professional coaches offering Saturday in-depth workshops and Sunday worship;

• three Saturdays of Try Something New Workshops led by practitioners in the arts of writing, journaling, poetry, music, drama, woodworking, glass painting, zentangle, and American sign language;

• and on Sundays not covered by professional coaches, lay leaders will provide alternative worship experiences that include movement, writing, Quaker practices, music, painting, drama, biology, and Taoist philosophy.

For a brochure and more information about Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit, go to Note there will be complimentary meals provided on the Sundays featuring professional coaches.

“Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit,” speaks to our desire to follow Christ’s tracks and to embody the Spirit not only in our work, but in the deepest part of our beings,” said Rev. Katie Palmer, FUPC pastor. “We never know where those tracks might lead, but we can commit to follow them faithfully.”

Activities begin on May 6 with the first professional coach workshop featuring John Stokes, and run through August.

Stokes, founder and director of The Tracking Project, Inc.,in Corrales, N. M., is a well-known musician, performer, writer, and teacher of tracking. Since 1980 he has worked and traveled extensively to bring awareness of the natural world and the integrity of indigenous peoples to interested people around the world. He will conduct two Saturday workshops. One on the riverwalk beginning at 1 p.m., and a second at the Presbyterian Church, 1000 Douglas Ave., beginning at 3 p.m.

In these workshops, Stokes will explore how The Tracking Project’s programs of natural and cultural awareness incorporate a wide range of skills—from traditional tracking and survival skills to music, storytelling, dance, peacemaking, and martial arts training. The name Arts of Life ® was chosen to describe these programs, which emphasize indigenous knowledge, the lessons of nature and the power of dreams and art.

Stokes will lead worship on May 7, and further expand on the topic of tracking and its spiritual applications. Call 505 425-7763 to make reservations for the meal following worship.

On Saturday, June 10, Jen Friedman, M.Div., will lead The Body’s Wisdom: The Art of Facing Change with Embodiment Practice beginning at 1 p.m., at Old Town Mission Community Center, 301 Socorro Street.Friedman, hospital chaplain and Leader of Dances of Universal Peace is an interfaith minister, chaplain and spiritual leader serving the growing community of seekers and practitioners identified as spiritual but not religious. She is known for sharing a deeply sacred presence and creates an authentic spiritual atmosphere to any ceremony or event she facilitates. She holds a Master of Divinity from The Iliff School of Theology and has a depth of spiritual understanding unique to her. Freidman has engaged rigorous study and practice in many faith traditions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. She is the executive director for Dances of Universal Peace, North America.

For the workshop, Friedman asks that participants embody their commitment to justice, non-violence, and peace with meditation and body prayer practice that honors the beauty and truth immanent in all beings. The Dances of Universal Peace are meditative, joyous, multi-cultural circle dances using sacred phrases from the world’s spiritual traditions and beloved songs from the peace movement. These are joined with live music and movement, to create embodied prayers that allow participants to touch the spiritual essence within and recognize it in others. Worship on Sunday, June 11 will continue the theme of The Body’s Wisdom.

On Saturday, July 8 at 1 p.m., M. Roger Holland II will present a workshop on Negro Spirituals: Songs of Freedom and Songs of Justice and continue the topic during worship July 9. Holland is a teaching Assistant Professor in Music and Religion and Director of The Spirituals Project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he received his Master of Divinity degree, Holland also served as Artist-in-Residence and director of the Union Gospel Choir for over 13 years. In 2015 Union awarded him the Trailblazers Distinguished Alumni Award, the first given to a graduate whose ministry is music, for his contributions to the legacy of African American music. He received a master’s degree in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, also in New York, and completed his undergraduate work at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he majored in Music Education with a concentration in piano and voice.

In the Saturday workshop, Holland will explore how the music and the history of Negro Spirituals served to sustain and inspire an enslaved community, and later become the bedrock of the Civil Rights Movement. Through a sociohistorical lens, not only will participants become acquainted with the history of slavery in America but will discover how Black Americans persevered and overcame oppression. Participants will discover how this historical music became the essence of the freedom songs that fueled a social justice movement and transformed a nation. 

Rev. Linda Loving’s Saturday July 29 workshop is designed to deepen understanding of biblical passages and breathe life and Spirit into readings of God’s word. Her sermon topic on July 30 will be For Such a Time at This. Loving has a BA in Theatre, University of Michigan, and Master of Divinity, McCormick Theological Seminary. In addition to serving many parishes around the country, she has also performed for more than 33 years JULIAN, a one-woman drama by J. Janda, which she has filmed in Julian’s cell in England. Loving has performed in professional theatre companies in the Midwest and Santa Fe and owns a business,

Loving said disciples and actors share a similar desire to embody truth and offer transformation to others. The workshop gives simple disciplines from a trained actor/preacher. “Delight in your own gifts – we all play ‘leading roles’ in God’s continually unfolding drama of Life and Love,” Loving said. Individual and choral readings as well as Reader’s Theatre will all be explored. “Some may choose to simply observe; all will find new ways to receive and love God’s word,” she said.

Rev. Seth Finch has been a pastoral leader at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque since 2008. He received his Master’s of Divinity from McCormick Seminary and a Master’s of Interfaith Action from Claremont Lincoln University. In 2018 he did his sabbatical focused on storytelling. His travels took him to New York to learn storytelling at “The Moth” mainstage; to Scotland where he participated in events at the Scottish Storytelling Center, and did research into his family story; to Northern Ireland to work with Padraig O’Tuama and Corymeela on how storytelling can help us work for peace; and across the Southwest to look at the story of the area’s culture.

Finch says of his Saturday, Aug. 12 workshop, “One of the things that most deeply binds us together as people and as communities is our shared stories. Stories guide our lives, who we think we are, who we think we relate to, how we live as people of faith. Learning to share our story and receiving the stories of others is a skill that helps us to build beloved Christian community.” In this seminar Finch will talk about what makes for a good story, how we tell our story, and reflect a little on what our shared stories look like. His Sunday, Aug. 13 sermon is entitled The Stories we tell Ourselves.

The FUPC season of exploration workshops and activates are free and open to everyone. For more information go to