Mid Councils Newsletter | July 11, 2016
Can you tell what these items are in the accompanying picture? You might guess that they are some kind of art installation in my backyard and you would be mostly right. They are not in their permanent homes yet. Let me tell you the story.
The weekend before I left for General Assembly, all of my family was at my house on the back deck. I had ordered a new glider for the porch for my husband for Father’s Day since the wooden one that we had given him for Father’s Day about twenty-five years ago was on its last legs. Since my sons-in-law were there, I asked if they could take the new one out of the box and put it together. Of course (seems like this is always my luck when I order something online) it had arrived broken so we had to repack it in order to send it back. While all of this was going on, my husband was sitting on the rapidly deteriorating old glider and, in fact, it fell apart while he was seated. I was yelling “Get up, get up” as the old glider gave up the ghost.
So there we were, twelve people standing on the deck with a wooden glider now in two big pieces and a new glider unable to be constructed because it was defective. Almost without taking a breath, my older daughter said to the children, “Let’s see what we can construct from the pieces of the glider. Let’s get some tools and figure out what new thing we can create.” My younger daughter dived right in as well. Now, you need to know that they are both professors who teach aspiring educators how to teach the STEM arts to young students. That is, as you probably know, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. They spend their days trying to get 19- and 20-year-olds to think of interesting ways to teach these topics to grade school students. Here stood a deck full of six grade school or soon to be grade school aged students. A perfect learning lab. The children dove in with help from their moms. Their dads had run an errand and when they got back they kind of took over. But, the children held their ground and told their dads exactly what their vision had been and made sure it was accomplished.
See the picture? The more open design turned into something that looks like a picture frame. So, I have assured them that I will use it to frame especially beautiful flowers when they are in bloom. The other item looks kind of like a pagoda or something else quite decorative from some of the botanical gardens we have visited. If you look closely, you will see that there is the beginning of a glass mosaic design on its side. This artist will be with us again in a few weeks for her “pretend you are an only grandchild” few days with Mimi and Pop and intends to complete the art installation in those days.
This whole thing was, to me, a perfect example of resilience. We had a hot afternoon to fill and none of us are the “let’s sit around and watch a movie while the sun is shining” kind of people. Suddenly we were presented with either a big pile of trash to be lamented and disposed of or possibilities. Someone saw the possibilities in what was there. Everybody used their creativity; something new was created that none of us could have imagined while we were eating our post-church pizza. The core of resilience is to know who you are even in the midst of very changed circumstances. We were still learners, creators, and people who get sent to their bedrooms when they start to whine.
We have just finished another General Assembly at which it was clear that we are working in changed and, in some sense, diminished circumstances as a church. There were sixty fewer commissioners because presbyteries are shrinking in size. We were often focused on issues that had only to do with the way we organize ourselves that did not take into account some of the broader issues in the world. There were not nearly as many fun things to buy in the exhibit hall!
But look what we made from this changed circumstance: a new confession to add to our quiver. A new way of having people serve as Moderator. A new Stated Clerk for new times. A basketful of statements and calls to action about world events, events in our cities, and events that often seem overwhelming but about which we will not give up. What does this say about who we are at the heart of life together? How do we hold that center in the midst of changing circumstances? We will find out the answers to those questions in the days ahead.
Transition. Is your presbytery talking about change—change of mission emphasis, change of personnel, change of staffing pattern, change of budget, change of size, change, change, change! Every presbytery is having these discussions in one form or another.
In order to provide a place for the leaders in your presbytery to have a conversation with those in other presbyteries asking the same kinds of questions, The Office of the General Assembly is sponsoring a Practical Presbytery Leadership Training event. The details are below. This event is designed for a group of people from a presbytery, not just one or two. Plan to have your employed program staff there along with your other leaders—council moderator, presbytery moderator, COM moderator, moderator of the transition/visioning team—whomever you think could benefit from this time together. The topics will include the role of the presbytery; Presbyterian polity and the theology behind it; change; the transitional model for congregations as it relates to presbyteries; conflict; how to find diverse leadership for presbyteries; how to access national resources.
Get this event on the calendar for your leaders. Registration materials will be available in early June.
What: Practical Presbytery Leadership Training: Teamwork for Changing Times
When: Friday, August 26, and Saturday, August 27, 1 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Central Presbyterian Church, Des Moines, Iowa
Cost: No cost for the program or meals; travel and lodging paid by the participants
Registration: Contact Cheri Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org by August 1
Be sure to mark your calendars and share these dates with others in your mid council. All of these events will be in Louisville.
Moderators Conference: October 28–30.
Association of Mid Council Leaders (AMCL) and Association of Stated Clerks (ASC): October 28–30. (If you need more information about these organizations or would like to join, please contact Jeff Hutcheson in San Francisco about AMCL and Doska Ross in the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii about the ASC.)
Stated Clerk’s Polity Conference: October 30–31. This conference will end the evening of October 31.
Also PLEASE TAKE NOTE. If you have attended the Polity Conference before then you know that there is a price break for the first two people from a mid council who attend. In the past, this was assumed to be the stated clerk and the executive/general presbyter. With all of the changes in the way presbyteries are organized, there were some questions about this last year. This summer all mid council stated clerks will receive a request to let the Office of the General Assembly know who will be the two people designated to receive this invitation.
New Stated Clerk Orientation: October 26-28. For more information or to register, please contact Diane Minter (email@example.com).