Mid Councils Newsletter | February 22, 2016
The following is a part of an email that I received from the Moderator of Great Rivers Presbytery. This is the presbytery that I served for a decade. This pastor arrived at the church she is still serving several years ago and was ordained to this first call. This is a congregation that felt very defeated before she came. I went to a session meeting one night where their part-time Baptist interim pastor had presented them with several options for their next pastor—all of them were some kind of arrangement for part-time work. I listened to their discussions of these options for some time before I was invited to comment. I told them they had another option—give more money! They were imagining that the money that was currently being given to the church every year was all of the money they would ever receive. As we continued our discussion it became clear that they also had several hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserves. They were hesitant to use that money since it was set aside for a rainy day. I told them to get out their umbrellas because they were standing in a storm. They finally decided that they would use some of their reserves if necessary so that they could afford to call a full-time pastor. As far as I know, they have never had to use the reserves. Instead, this decision to be bold about their future gave them a new attitude and their now long-time pastor helped them to develop a new positive way of thinking about themselves and their call to fulfill God’s intentions for their small town. The pastor has even led them in an effort to record their faith stories that resulted in a book.
She and I were having a little email conversation about resilience in response to something I had written. Here is a part of an email she sent back to me, shared with permission. The context is that two congregations united in 1969 to form this congregation. Neither was Presbyterian. They chose the Presbyterian church as a middle ground.
I also wanted to share a joy to make you smile. A joy was a conversation at the Session meeting on Sunday. We were discussing the dreams of the congregations that united in 1969 and realized around the table only one person was a member of the congregation when that happened. We also discussed how a number of the members from congregations that have closed since that time have come to join our congregation. One elder said we are a gathering place for refugees. Then we talked about how we have adopted practices of those other congregations knowingly and unknowingly to make the refugees feel welcomed and valued and no longer refugees. One story I shared was when a local UMC closed and the first time the new members came to worship and we had Communion, we did it by intinction, which had been the UM congregation's practice. We did it for a wholly different reason and we were not aware of their practice. After worship one of the UM members came to me to tell me how welcomed they felt that we would change our Communion practice for them. I explained the change was really for a different reason because we had not known, but they said it was obviously God at work. I agreed and so did the elders when I told them on Sunday. We were all quiet for a moment and some shared tears because it was obvious to us even though we are small God hasn't finished yet so we need to keep working. Resilience seems to be part of the lifeblood of this congregation, which is how the lone elder who had been here in 1969 summed it up.
What kinds of stories like this might be told by the congregations or presbyteries whom you serve? How are they practicing resilience and openness to the future without even recognizing that they are doing so? How can you help them be more aware of the ways that God is using them even in the midst of fewer numbers of people and shrinking budgets, etc.? How can you remind yourself about the ways you are being resilient and forward-thinking even in the midst of the minutiae that threatens to overtake your working hours?
Has your presbytery dismissed a congregation or had a PDA deployment in the last year or so? Do you have leaders—whether staff or volunteer/elected leaders—who could use a little time with others in the same circumstance to rest and reflect? The Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are sponsoring a respite retreat April 11-13 in St. Louis. We will pay for room and board for up to two people from each presbytery. There are still a few spaces left. If you will be sending someone, please let Diane Minter at firstname.lastname@example.org know asap. We will take registrations until the spaces are filled or until April 1.
Hopefully no congregation in your Mid Council will never need the information at this link (and hopefully you will never need it during a meeting of your Mid Council). But, just in case here is a resource with regard to active shooters in a public setting. http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/creating-safe-ministries/emergency-plan/
From Sue Krummel: I need your help. As you may know—maybe you have a colleague in your Synod who fits this description or maybe this is a description of you—there are more and more people serving as presbytery executives or their equivalents in very temporary, part-time and/or short term circumstances. Sometimes they are filling in while a search for an interim or installed person is underway. Sometimes the presbytery has decided that its staffing and budgetary needs demand a part-time person fill that role permanently. Sometimes the presbytery has decided that it will be managed by a part-time Stated Clerk and a group of leaders who are volunteers with the presbytery while they pursue some other call or employment. As you may also know, the formal training for presbytery leaders provided by the Association of Mid Council Leaders, with some staff help from the Office of the General Assembly, is based on a model of a presbytery leader staying for at least three years and being close to full time. This means that more and more presbyteries have leaders who have received no formal training for this role.
We are working on two ways to address this issue. One of those will be a training program for multiple leaders from a presbytery. I will tell you more about that in future newsletters. The other is where I need your help. We are going to gather existing resources online and create those that do not exist. These resources will be especially for these short term or temporary or part time leaders who miss out on the more formal training.
My question for you: What topics should we cover as we gather these online resources? What did you really need to know as you started your work or as you came upon a circumstance you did not expect? You can reply to this newsletter and it will come to my email address. Thanks for your help.
The Fall meetings, including Polity Conference, Moderators’ Conference, Association of Mid Council Leaders meeting, Association of Stated Clerk’s meeting and training for new Stated Clerks will be on the following dates at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville:
- Polity Conference (to which two people from each presbytery will be invited; see below) will be Sunday afternoon, October 30 through Monday evening, October 31.
- The Association of Stated Clerks, the Association of Mid Council Leaders, and the Moderators Conference will be Friday, October 28 through Mid Day on Sunday, October 30.
- New Stated Clerk training will be October 26-28.
New Way of Issuing Invitations
As you are well aware, the leadership of presbyteries is in a state of rapid transition. As you may also know, two people have been invited to register from each presbytery for the Polity Conference for a registration fee that includes transportation. This has traditionally been the Stated Clerk and the Executive Presbyter. But for some presbyteries there are not two people in these roles and in others it makes more sense to send someone else to this conference. This year, before the registration is officially opened, each Presbytery and Synod Stated Clerk will be asked to provide the names of the two people who should be asked to register for Polity. Stated Clerks should watch for a form to use to report this information after the General Assembly.
From time to time (maybe as often as once a week) the congregations you serve probably get inquiries about things like using their steeples for cell towers. Here is a link to such a company that will have a display at General Assembly this summer. Have you thought through the kinds of questions you need to help your congregations think about? For instance, how will the presbytery help the congregation abide by the constitution with regard to leasing the property used for worship? G-4.0206 b. Do you have a way of helping a congregation think about how to use the money they would realize from such a business proposition? Will this source of income tie them to their building instead of encouraging them to think imaginatively about where they should worship?