Mid Councils Newsletter, July 27, 2015
musings from the road
A few weeks ago I got an email in the middle of the week from the general presbyter and stated clerk of the presbytery of which I am a member. When I finished my work in Great Rivers, I asked the neighboring presbytery if I could transfer my membership to it. They were very gracious in accepting me. So, John Rickard sent me this email since I am a member of Blackhawk and since I live pretty close to the place about which he was going to make a request.
A tornado had gone through a small town in Blackhawk a day or two before. Several of the church families had been impacted. John wanted the presbytery to be represented in worship that following Sunday morning but he could not be there. He asked me if I would represent the presbytery and the national church. There was also going to be a new member of the PDA board in attendance and so I would be there in some ways to support that person as well. I told John I would be happy to do this.
It felt like old times: figuring out how long it would take me to get to this town; locating the church on a map just in case the directions in my phone took me someplace weird (as can happen in very small towns or rural places); trying to figure out how dressed up I should be so that I would fit in with people who worship there regularly; and then driving for a couple of hours to get to a church where I did not know anyone but where I knew I would be welcomed and where the worship would feel very familiar.
Turns out it was just what I expected. There were about 25 mostly older church members, some carrying cake carriers into the building before worship (yum). I got there early enough to chat with a few people including a woman in her 80s who sheltered in her bathroom while the tornado destroyed the house around her. She had to walk two blocks out through the rain and standing water in her slippers to get to the place where they let her grandson park his truck and wait for her. She had lost everything and where else would she be on a Sunday morning but in church? Her telling of the tale was very matter of fact. Just another week in the life of a Midwesterner.
The other visitors in worship that day were the new PDA board member, his spouse, and his two daughters, both older teenagers. So there were five of us who were strangers in worship that day. As I met his family it was apparent that they were regular church goers and that one of his daughters has Down’s syndrome. As we proceeded through worship, all of us strangers joined right in with the songs and the prayers. When we got to the Lord’s Prayer, one of us was saying the words just a little more slowly than everyone else in the sanctuary. That is when I noticed the second wonderful thing about this congregation that morning. First, they had suffered great material losses in their town and the surrounding countryside just a few days earlier (including looters who showed up 15 minutes after the storm passed.) Most of them probably never considered being anyplace else but in church on Sunday morning. The second wonderful thing I noticed was what we all did when one member of the worshiping community was taking a little more time with the Lord’s Prayer. We all slowed down to accommodate her pace. We did not run over her words; we just waited for her and prayed at a pace that worked for her.
In the midst of the storms of life, in the midst of worrying about what will come next for our congregations, for our presbyteries, and for our synods—for us—I hope that we can all be as gracious as this congregation. I hope that we can remember that God has called us to listen for the movement of the Holy Spirit, to wait for a word from the Lord, to notice those with whom we worship and serve.
As you are aware, each council is now required to have a child protection policy. You are, no doubt, working with your congregations to be sure that their sessions are complying. Hopefully your mid council has completed (or is near completing) its own policy. From time to time we get inquiries about these policies; some of your colleagues would like to see what you have created so that they can work with groups in their mid councils to create their own. We would also like to have copies of these policies in the Office of the General Assembly so that we can share them as appropriate.
To that end, I would encourage you to send (electronically) a copy of your mid council child protection policy to me. You can do so by replying to this newsletter and attaching it. In future newsletters I will then list those that have been received so that others in your area will know to whom they might turn for help in developing their policies.
The Mid Council Financial Network is November 18–20, in San Antonio, Texas. Click here for a downloadable PDF brochure.
You are invited to a time away with mid council colleagues in ministry to pray, play, and reflect together on our ministries in relationship to ethical choices and boundaries. Click here for more information.
FEMA has launched a new website that provides resources and information to help congregations plan for disasters and emergencies.
Polity Conference takes place October 11-12 in Portland.
The five concurrent conferences this year run October 9-11 and include: Association of Mid Council Leaders, Association of Stated Clerks, New Stated Clerks’ Orientation, Synod Committee on Representation Training, and Moderator’s Conference.
Registration opens on or about August 10, 2015.