Meet GATE Program Graduate Fabian Rodriguez

Fabian Rodriguez
GATE Program Graduation
September 4th, 2014

Good evening, my name is Fabian Rodriguez, I am 17 years old and attend McArthur South Senior high school in the 10th grade.

When I first started the GATE program I thought it was going to be a complete waste of my time. However, I was able to gain plenty of knowledge from the class on Gun Safety and Consequences taught by Mimi Sutherland. I learned how much time you can receive for being an idiot on the streets messing around with a gun. I acknowledged that I wouldn’t like to spend 10 to 20 years in prison for committing a crime when I’m able to prevent that from happening.

In addition, the Trauma class helped save people and made me realize that the world is a very dangerous place and if I was to die today I would leave a lot of loved ones devastated.

Last but not least, the class that affected me was the morgue because it made me think about my life and how I am still alive for a good reason and that reason is because of God and because I have a mother that loves me no matter what.

I don’t have a favorite instructor because I feel like every instructor in the GATE Program is great. They have respect for us, are extremely mindful, and have amazing friends that help at all times with no hesitation.

The difference between me then and now is that I didn’t really cherish my life. I was always angry and careless about life. Now I cherish my life so much due to my perspective and I give plenty of thanks to this great program. They have helped me get through tough times, they have helped me cherish my life, to be happy, and mindful not just of myself but also of my loved ones.

My future goals are to complete high school and get a contractor license to work in construction. From the bottom of my heart I would love to thank Mimi, Rene, Henry, Xavier, Leo, and Bakari for all of the help and knowledge they have provided me with to become a better person that I am today.

Editor’s Note: The GATE Program is the brainchild of Mimi Watson Sutherland, and is a mission of Riviera Presbyterian Church. For more information please visit the GATE Facebook page.

Please welcome Gerry Blount to the RPC Family.

My family moved to Miami in 1954 from north Florida. I was 11 years of age and lived my teenage years in what was considered, at the time, a very small city. It was as a youngster exploring the nooks and crannies of Miami that I knew I was destined to live a life of travel and adventure.

In 1962, I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and when I left Miami, I never looked back.

Twenty-plus years of travel, adventure, formal education and many rewarding experiences, both professional and personal ended in 1983 at the young age of 40. I retired from the US Army Inspector’s General’s Office and prepared for my new life as a civilian. In the next 30 years, I created two retail businesses, became a million dollar Real Estate producer, an avid student in the world of finance, which I am still active and fifteen wonderful years as a fulltime RVer (Recreational Vehicle).

Three years ago I returned to Miami to supervise my sister’s healthcare. She is currently in “The Palace Assisted Care Facility” under Hospice care. This in some ways has been a blessing. It has allowed me to rekindle and nurture old and new friendships and the opportunity to discover and become a member of Riviera Presbyterian Church. My travels and adventures are not over, I have just found a new way to satisfy my wanderlust. The rest of this life is yet to be written.

October at RPC

Wednesdays noon – deadline for submission for One More Thing send to

  • Sundays 9:30am Theology over Morning Joe – Bible Study in the church library
  • Sundays 11:00am Worship Service
  • October 4 – 8:30am Beach Breakfast
  • October 5 – 12:15pm First Sunday Potluck Lunch – please bring a dish to share
  • October 12 – 12:15pm Christian Education Committee Meeting
  • October 16 – 7:00pm Women’s Study Group
  • October 19 – 12:15pm Mission Committee Meeting
  • October 21 – 7:00pm Session Meeting
  • October 26 – 12:15pm Deacons Meeting


Through out the month of October Riviera will be accepting donations for the Peacemaking Program of the PCUSA. 25% of all donations given by RPC members and friends will go to the GATE Program. Our goal for 2014 is $400.00

There are three ways that you can donate

Through RPC via Peacemaking Offering Envelopes

Text PEACE to 20222 to give $10



Pastor Monica Styron

Interim Pastor Monica Styron

In the northern regions of our country leaves have turned to grey and they are about to pop with color over the next few weeks. Here we are still alert to what is possible for wild winds and floods. Each condition reminding us that life has several ways to express ongoing change and get our attention.

As a newcomer to Florida I must admit I’m doing a countdown on Hurricane season preparing for the possibility of one occurring in October or even November. It has caused me to think about various disasters around our world and how the church, particularly PCUSA responds locally, nationally, and internationally.

Having lived through a flood just a few years ago I remember hearing at that time my co-pastor mention a discussion he’d had with a colleague regarding- what would our world be like without faith-based communities? He said: “Many of us treat churches like fire extinguishers. We give them little thought until they are needed. But when they are needed, they are really needed! But, if you don’t maintain a fire extinguisher (or have healthy congregations) they won’t work when you need them.”

It’s a good metaphor for both physical disasters as well as spiritual and emotional ones. Today we know that many people in our society do not associate with a church or even a particular religion. Many think of themselves as “spiritual” and can affirm that there is a God, though too mysterious or aloof to define. My own father was one of them. He didn’t believe religion, especially institutional religion, was necessary and even went so far as to say it was harmful. He then cited the many wars in history that were carried out in the name of religion. Others, may simply be unimpressed as they think churches take up a lot of space, get special privileges and don’t do enough with the resources they have.

We’ve heard the expression “to err is human” so we need to lay this one at our own doorsteps. One example is the very public arguing we’ve done over who can or can’t be included in the church, which goes against Jesus’ teachings and the way he showed us how to live with one another. When we isolate ourselves and expect that people will come to us we invite criticism for not being part of the larger community, relevant, in touch with the needs around us, or caring in our actions.

Riviera has reached out on many occasions _ to be inclusive. “Walking the talk.”

It has also supported those who have developed transformational ministries within the Miami community, like GATE. The foundation is a strong one. However, being inclusive isn’t an end in itself it’s only the gathering, the beginning, as it was on Pentecost. From there the disciples went out to serve, teach and share God’s love transforming the world. That’s our call as well.

Perhaps this transition/interim has allowed each of you and as a congregation time to think about the past accomplishments and challenges of Riviera. I hope that through the many valley’s and mountaintops you’ve all gone through you have come to appreciate, as I have, the strength of your hearts centered in God’s love. It’s in that love that we can endure most anything in life with humble hearts, appreciation, and a sense of God’s presence.

This month we begin and end on the subject of food- starting with a Beach Breakfast (Oct 4), installing new Elders and Deacons (Oct 12), and celebrating World Food Day (Oct 26). The community in which we live is hungry to know God’s love may we be guided by the spirit to fulfill our mission to reach out and “feed the hungry.”

Grace and Peace,


Sermon: ‘Works in Progress’

Sermon for June 15, 2014
by Charles E. Hannemann, Ph.D

As a kid brought up in Chicago (a very ethnic city), the question, “What nationality are you,” was typical of almost every encounter I had with any “new kid on the block. A follow-up question was often phrased, “What religion are you?” My neighborhood was populated by many Catholics and Lutherans of European decent, Congregationalists and lots of families who rarely darkened the doors of any church. I don’t recall too many Presbyterians, Methodists, or Baptists. I cannot ever recall being asked if I was a Christian. I do recall a few arguments with other children relating to which of the various faiths was the “right” one.

I suspect that, regardless of the particular family’s faith, most would not have objected to calling themselves “Christian.” The term “Christian” would most likely have evoked typical definitions including: a Christian is a Catholic; A Christian is someone who goes to church; A Christian is someone who believes in God/Jesus; A Christian is someone who is religious, etc. The definitions today are probably not too different from those I have listed.

Surprisingly, the word “Christian” appears only a few times in the New Testament. In fact, the use of the term in the New Testament indicates that it was a term of derision, placed upon Christ’s followers by their critics. One example appears in Acts Chapter 26 verse 28, where King Agrippa, an unbeliever, said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” The label “Christian” wasn’t so much a label chosen by those so named, but a name applied to them by those in opposition to their ways. Hostile critics of their beliefs applied the name to them. Since the term was also placed on the disciples, it helps us to establish the meaning of the term: A Christian is a disciple, a person who not only follows, but also emulates. A Christian is one who reflects the path of Christ.

The heart of discipleship centers upon learning and living the commands of Christ. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” One source I came across identified 49 commands including such as: repentance, loving your enemies, allowing your light to shine before others, refusing to allow material treasures to dominate one’s life, living the Golden Rule, being aware of false prophets, forgiving, being a servant, caring for the poor, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, teaching all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And these commands are not the end all of discipleship– but a beginning.

It is somewhat comforting to many of us to believe that the twelve disciples were totally devoted to Jesus, hung on His every word and lived by every one of his commands. But this was not always the case. Absolute trust in Jesus was not always present among them. At times, they quarreled with each other. On several occasions Jesus attempted to tell them about his eminent death and resurrection (In Mark 9, we read, They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They had their own concepts as to what the future would hold. They envisioned a future kingdom with Jesus as supreme ruler. The evils of the Roman Empire would cease to exist. They quarreled and argued about who was the most important disciple. This concern about their importance even found its way to the Last Supper. When Jesus was arrested, they ran away in fear. We are all familiar with Peter’s denials.

Jesus and his disciples, as well as anyone who demonstrated a real interest in his words and actions, were a threat to the Roman Empire. The empire was a strict ruler who did not appreciate people who caused problems. Herod was in charge, and a great deal of tension existed between the Jewish community and the power system of Rome. The Jews wished to be free of Roman domination. The Romans disliked troublemakers and simply wanted this small country called Israel to be peaceful and subdued.

As the time of his crucifixion was nearing, Jesus had not completed what he had wanted to teach his disciples. He taught them that he would return after his death and resurrection. He taught them about the final judgment. He spoke about prayer and sending the Holy Spirit. He spoke about opposition to those who trusted him. He taught them about his relationship to God, and again, told them that the most important command was to love.

The term “disciple” is not an unfamiliar term, both in in theological and secular environments. Just what is a disciple of Jesus? What are the so-called requirements? First of all, a disciple is a learner, someone with a deep desire to learn. A disciple listens to the teacher with both attention and intention. Along with learning, a disciple must love God more than anything else – an intense love of God. We must rid ourselves of our own preoccupation. Discipleship requires that we must often lay aside our personal goals and ambitions and desires and allow God to reveal his goals, desires, and ambitions for our lives. Disciples alert themselves to the danger of allowing wealth to dominate their lives. Disciples need to be good stewards, unafraid to give of their monetary wealth, time and talents. Recall Mark 10:17 where a rich young ruler encounters Jesus. As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy. ”Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ”At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. So, discipleship has costs – but the rewards are immeasurable.

Just after Jesus had risen, his disciples witnessed The Great Commission. In Matthew 28: 16-20 we read: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The commission outlines what Jesus desired the apostles to accomplish in his absence. The essence of The Great Commission was Jesus’ command to his then followers as well as all those to come, to make disciples, and this will be done through baptizing and teaching.

Jesus commanded us to “make disciples” and we should do this by baptizing and teaching. Some would consider Acts 1:8 a part of the Great Commission, as we read, ”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ”The Holy Spirit gives us power to “make disciples.”

Last Sunday in our adult Sunday school class, we poured over the passage from Matthew, where Jesus said to his disciples and a large crowd, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of HIS heart will flow rivers of flowing water. IT bothered me that “the rivers of flowing water,” (the Holy Spirit as such) were to flow out of those who believed in Jesus as opposed to emanating from Jesus Himself. As I though more about it, I understood that if the Holy Spirit flowed out from the believers, they were being empowered to fulfill the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is the beginning of faith in action for all Christians. In verse 18, Jesus tells us that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. He instructs us to have faith in Him. This statement validates His power in the lives of Christians everywhere. This statement validates our commitment to Him, and reveals His omnipotence and His Deity.

The Great Commission is a knock on our door of discipleship – a calling to every Christian to step forward in the faith and share the Good News. But slow down a tad. This is faith in action. Oh…the word that can cause so many to be uncomfortable –evangelism. Just how can we carry out Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? How do we go about teaching them to obey everything He commanded of us?

Here we are –collectively worshipping at Riviera Presbyterian Church. The baptismal fount stands in the center of our sanctuary. Our worship services and Sunday school classes teach. We have the vehicles for “making disciples.” God has let it be known that Jesus is “king of kings and lord of lords. ” As Christians in the 21st century, what is “attached” to Jesus’ Great Commission for each of us? We are works in progress. First, we need to pray often and listen carefully for the call of Christ in our lives. We need to study the Bible and other relevant literature. We need to seek inspiration from study. We need to attend study groups where We can bounce thoughts off others. We need to involve ourselves in the wonderful life of this church, participating in activities that foster learning and growth – activities that serve others. We need to worship often with our congregation and also seek times of quiet reflection praying and worshipping in silence. Remember that worship is fostered by our humility, our reverence, and our submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to share our witness and resources with others – yes, that rather uncomfortable word evangelism. It doesn’t involve the stereotype of spouting a creed or two and badgering folks about whether or not they have been saved. Tell others what Riviera is about. Tell them the words appearing weekly in our bulletins, “that we are open to all who want to be a part of a community of faith seeking to reflect the path of Christ – that we make no distinction among people –that we welcome members into the church’s ministries and ordained offices without regard to race or ethnic background, economic or social circumstances, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or disability.“ Tell others how we at Riviera embrace diversity, gaining strength through both our differences and likenesses. Tell others that we attempt to reflect the path of Christ – and perhaps respond to their possible question, “What does that really mean?”

The Great Commission involves inviting others to share in our congregational experiences. It involves sharing our faith journeys when opportunities present themselves. We need, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to be peacemakers, seeking peace within ourselves and with others. We need to be intricately involved in seeking peace and justice in a word of upheaval.

Christ wants us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of he Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He was speaking to his eleven disciples and to all of his disciples to come – you and me.

With all that Jesus requires of us, with guidance from the Holy Spirit, we can accept that commission, even though we are indeed WORKS IN PROGRESS.


Authoritative Interpretation on Marriage in the PC-USA

It has been 40 years since this issue started, but in case you haven’t heard the 221st General Assembly approved the Authoritative Interpretation permitting clergy in jurisdictions with marriage equality to perform same sex marriages without fear of disciplinary action. We also approved a change to the Directory for Worship defining marriage as between two people; though that will need to be ratified by the presbyteries.

Appreciation goes to our brothers and sisters in Covenant Network of Presbyterians and More Light Presbyterians for all their hard work and support of the overtures that have made history.
As members of Riviera we still have some work to do when the Directory of Worship overture comes to our Presbytery for approval.

This isn’t the end as there are individuals and congregations who may leave. However, another overture was approved to assist in reconciliation efforts across the Presby-teries.
RPC has available for you the resource “In times of disagreement, we will:” for you in the sanctuary that you can pick up.

Want to know the highlights of The Assembly?
Go to

Copies are also available in the sanctuary for you to pick up.

July at RPC

  • The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sapp will be leading worship on Sunday, July 6 at RPC.
  • Potluck lunch Sunday, July 6 following 11am Worship service. Please bring a dish to share.
  • Pastor Monica will on vacation from July 3—July 21.
  • Barbie Prieto will be on vacation July 28—August 5.
  • Elder Chuck Hannemann will be leading worship on July 13.
  • Elder Cindy Hershey will be leading worship on July 20.
  • Please bring empty shoe boxes to church so the chil-dren in our Child Care Center can decorate them for Riverside House to give to men coming out of prison. Please also bring small bottles of toiletries to go in the boxes.
  • Please bring children’s books (new or used, including books in Spanish for children up to age 5 to give to RJT Foundation for families impacted by gun violence and the Pan Americana Presbyterian Church child care center.