Mid Councils Newsletter | February 8, 2016
I am writing this the morning after the Iowa caucus. As you may know, my husband and I lived in and served churches in Iowa for almost twenty years. We have been to a few caucuses. And, as is often the case when your children reach adulthood in a place, we have “left behind” one of our daughters in Iowa. She and her family live in Iowa City. Last night she and her husband were on Facebook and Twitter during the caucus they attended and I heard from them afterwards. They had taken their three children with them because, remember, a caucus is not like casting a vote. It takes a while and they did not want to have to pay a babysitter. They thought they would be in and out in about an hour. They left at the end of the hour, frustrated by the disorganization, not having finished the process. So much for being an inclusive system. Many young parents do not even go to the caucus because of this kind of thing. It is a system set up to be open and inclusive and to make people feel welcome. Sometimes it ends up having exactly the opposite result.
Their experience reminded me a little of an experience I had in Chicago with my younger daughter a few years ago. It was just before she gave birth to her son. She had not yet found a church home in her neighborhood. Her husband was out of town and I had gone up to “babysit” her just in case the baby came early. I decided to take her to worship at a congregation that was close to her apartment.
We sat down in the great big old sanctuary that had a few people scattered throughout. People were fairly friendly. We decided to sit in the back to be able to see well (and to be able to leave if she needed to do so). I scanned the bulletin and saw something that I hoped she would not see since I knew she would want to leave if she did so. After the sermon, the bulletin said that the whole congregation (all thirty of us) would follow the ushers to the front of the sanctuary and gather around the communion table for the pastoral prayer and the rest of the service. She was already feeling a little awkward. She is five feet tall and was 38 weeks pregnant—she pretty much looked like a basketball with little legs. We knew no one there. Then to be asked to stand up for the last ten or fifteen minutes of worship so that everyone could see us. ...
I was planning to just stay seated where we were and then slip out. But a very friendly lady came over and told us to “come on down to the front” and when we tried to politely decline, she insisted. We walked down there and slid into a pew instead of standing, but were still called out as visitors, asked to introduce ourselves, and then asked to stand for the prayer so that we could all join hands.
This was very comfortable for the people who usually worshiped there. I am sure they thought it was very welcoming. It was the opposite. My daughter never went back there. (She did find another congregation on her own.) What they intended—being welcoming, feeling like a family—had the opposite outcome.
What does your mid council do that is comfortable for those who are the “regulars” but may be off-putting to newcomers? Do you make the newcomers stand and introduce themselves? Is there a better way to learn their names? Is there some secret about how you always “do lunch” that people should be told about? Are your nametags of sufficient size and do they include the right information to actually be helpful? What rituals have you adopted that may be off putting to the very people you want to welcome into your fold? Maybe you could ask someone who will attend for the first time to be a “secret shopper” and let your planning team know afterwards how you might actually achieve the goals of your meetings.
The next Learning Community for Mid Council Leaders will be July 24–28, 2016, at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut.
Has your presbytery dismissed congregation(s) in the last year or have you had a PDA deployment within your bounds? If so, you are invited to send one or two leaders from your presbytery to a Respite Retreat in St. Louis, April 11–13. We will begin mid-afternoon on April 11 and end just before lunch on April 13. Room and board will be covered by the Office of the General Assembly. You will need to get your leaders to the retreat center.
For more information, you can reply to this newsletter. You have also received information by email about the event.
The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program of the PC(USA) will launch a new quarterly e-newsletter beginning on March 29, 2016. You must opt in to receive it by signing up on the PC(USA)’s subscription page located here: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/e-newsletter-subscriptions/. Select “Young Adult Volunteers,” which is, of course, located in the Young Adults category! We hope you will subscribe to stay up-to-date with all the great things happening in this important ministry of our church. Please share this invitation with the congregations in your presbytery.
The synod executives met in mid-January for a regular meeting. Their meeting happened to be over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and they spent a good portion of their time in worship and in meetings talking about issues related to the work of Dr. King and how those issues are being addressed in their work and the work of their synods. Attached is an action taken by the Synod of the Northeast with relationship to an incident a century ago and its resolution in our time.
Time for an update to the “Who’s on First” list. Below are changes since September 2015. First, some statistics:
In 29 presbyteries, the same person serves as stated clerk and presbytery leader.
There are 88 new stated clerks since January 2013.
There are 62 new presbytery leaders since January 2013.
There are currently 34 positions for presbytery leader that are vacant. For most of these, there is no search for a new leader.
- Arkansas: New presbytery leader, Stewart Smith. (William Galbraith retired.)
- Boise: New stated clerk, Richard Green. (Ruth Hicks retired.)
- Central Nebraska: Presbytery Leader Chuck Traylor has a new call. There is no search.
- Charleston-Atlantic: Donnie Woods is serving as stated clerk as well as presbytery leader. Deane Kemper retired.
- Cherokee: Rebecca Blackwell completed her service as stated clerk and presbytery leader. John Spangler is stated clerk.
- Chicago: Bob Reynolds retired as presbytery leader. Debbie Rundlett is interim presbytery leader.
- Cincinnati: Jim DiEgidio has completed his service to the presbytery as presbytery leader.
- Des Moines: Phil Barrett has retired as stated clerk and presbytery leader. Dave Hamilton is stated clerk.
- Donegal: Michael Wilson is the stated clerk.
- Florida: Paul Luthman is the presbytery leader.
- Great Rivers: Felipe Martinez, former stated clerk and presbytery leader, has taken a new call. Elissa Bailey is stated clerk; Stephen McKinney-Whitaker is interim presbytery leader.
- Hudson River: Gavin Meek is interim presbytery leader.
- Kendall: Ron Lavoie, former stated clerk and presbytery leader, has taken a new call. Pam Hayes is stated clerk.
- Lackawanna: Margaret Zeigler is stated clerk.
- Lake Huron: San Saperstein is presbytery leader.
- Mackinac: Ewen Holmes is presbytery leader.
- Miami Valley: Larry Hollar is stated clerk.
- Mid-Kentucky: Jerry Van Marter is stated clerk; John Odom is presbytery leader.
- Midwest Hanmi: Eun Sung Cho, former presbytery leader, has taken a new call.
- Missouri Union: Deborah Boucher-Payne is presbytery leader.
- Muskingum Valley: Debbie Rundlett, former presbytery leader, has taken a new call. Wayne Yost is the stated clerk.
- Newark: Kevin Yoho, former presbytery leader, has completed his service to the presbytery.
- Newton: Jeanne Radak is stated clerk as well as presbytery leader.
- Northern Kansas: Edward Thompson, former presbytery leader and stated clerk, has taken a new call.
- Prospect Hill: John Pehrson has retired as stated clerk and presbytery leader. Dennis Sohl is stated clerk.
- Redstone: Skip Noftzger is serving as stated clerk as well as presbytery leader.
- Trinity: David Torry is stated clerk.
- West Virginia: Edward Thompson is presbytery leader following Forrest Palmer’s retirement.
- Western New York: Bronwen Boswell has completed her service as presbytery leader.
- Wyoming: Mark Owens is stated clerk following Fred Feth’s retirement.
- Yellowstone: Debbie Blackburn is stated clerk.
- Synod of Lakes and Prairies: Pam Prouty is stated clerk following Jay Wilkinson’s retirement.
- Synod of Living Waters: Terry Newland is stated clerk following Richard Borie’s retirement.