Mid Councils Newsletter July
Tee-ball. If you have ever been a parent, grandparent, neighbor, aunt, uncle, close friend, etc. of a small child in the United States, you have probably been to a tee-ball game. I use the term “game” loosely. At least in the Midwest, here are some of the rules: Everyone bats—everyone. Now, remember, tee-ball means the ball is just sitting there on top of the tee waiting for you to hit it. Even so, there are some players in the five- and six-year-old set who cannot seem to hit it on the first, second, or third swing. Eventually, sometimes with a coach's help, they connect with the ball. Then there is the team on defense. It seems like there are hundreds of them out there, mostly standing in the infield. When that ball is finally hit, the goal is to get the ball and throw it to first base. I have never seen anyone called “out” in a tee-ball game since even if the ball comes somewhere close to first base on the throw, the first base player can rarely catch it. A player can usually only advance one base on a hit ball, no matter how long it takes the team on defense to get it off the ground and close to first base. The last hitter on a team always gets a grand slam since the bases are always loaded and that last hitter gets to complete the run back to home plate.
Watching tee-ball reminds me of some of the ways that most of us engage in mid council ministry. Stick with me. Let's say there are a dozen little players on a team. That usually means there are about six coaches for that same team someplace on the field. They encourage their players, they remind them of the fundamentals of the game, they are there to stand by them if something does not go their way. Isn't that what mid council ministry is like? We encourage the leaders of our congregations, we remind them of the ways we have agreed to live the life of this church together, and we are there to stand by them when something goes wrong. What impresses me about the tee-ball coaches I have seen in action this summer is how well they know their players. My Peoria grandson does not take after his “Mimi” (me) at all. He is athletic. As I watch him play, I see that the coaches pretty much leave him alone. He strikes the ball well on his first swing, he knows where the next base is to which he is supposed to run, and when he is fielding he has the idea of where he is supposed to throw the ball. They let him play. Then there are the other children. Last night I watched a child who was running from second to third who was told to run home. So, she just bypassed third base and made a beeline for home. Smart kid; not really the rules of the game. Then I saw a child who was the base-runner on second base. The ball was struck, another child was running toward second. “Run, Jimmy, run,” said the coach. Then the coach repeated it. Finally the coach had to say “Stop pouring dirt from your hand onto the top of your helmet and run!” Both of these last two children need a little more coaching than the ones who know the rules and have the natural talent to play the game well. It is their coaches' responsibility to treat each of their star athletes differently so that they receive the coaching that they need.
As people around the country engage in leadership of mid councils, that is one of the fundamental things to be done. Those leaders need to determine what kind of coaching each leader of a congregation or the congregation itself needs. Then we find a way to gently deliver that coaching so that it is well-received and makes a lasting change in the way the congregation is fulfilling its call to be part of God's mission in the world.
Of course, mostly what the coaches are doing is encouraging and inspiring their little players. They want to teach them a love of this game in particular and of the larger landscape of working together with others to achieve a common goal. May all of us who work in mid council ministry remember what our most basic task is: to nurture or rekindle in our leaders the hope and promise made manifest to us in Jesus Christ that causes us to bring hope in Jesus' name to all for whom that hope can change their lives.
And let's never forget that at the end of tee-ball, everybody gets a snack. . . .
From time to time your presbytery might be in discussions with congregations about the issues around dismissal to another denomination or the dissolution of that congregation. Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly has some resources that you might find helpful if you find yourself in one of these discussions. You can contact Mid Council Ministries by replying to this newsletter if you would like to request specific kinds of information.
The Annual Polity Conference will be in Louisville this year, October 19 through October 21. We will begin with worship on Sunday evening. We will end with worship on Tuesday evening. In between there will be time to talk about the actions of General Assembly this year, especially those actions relating to mid councils. As always, it will be a time to meet with your colleagues from around the country. Registration will open in the middle of August, but mark those dates on your calendar now.
Get these dates on the calendars of your synod or presbytery moderators: November 7, 8, 9. Those are the dates for the annual Moderators' Conference in Louisville. It will start first thing on the morning of the 7th, so people will need to travel on the 6th. It ends before noon on the 9th. More details will be available soon. For now, help them to set aside those dates and help the presbytery to identify the funds for this important gathering as we follow up on mandates of the General Assembly to talk about realignment of synods, about reconciliation across the denomination, and as we help your moderators to more fully live into their call to this special ministry.
The orientation is intended for presbytery stated clerks who are new to their position and/or who have not, yet, attended the orientation. All the expenses for the orientation are paid for with per capita funds by the Office of the General Assembly (travel, double occupancy hotel room, and meals while in Louisville).
When and Where: Wednesday, November 5, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at noon on Friday, November 7, in Louisville, Kentucky. Most people will need to arrive in Louisville on Tuesday, November 4th in order to start on Wednesday morning. There is the optional parliamentary training that stated clerks are invited to attend in conjunction with the moderators’ conference on Friday afternoon and evening, November 7th.
Registration: For details and registration information, contact Diane.Minter@pcusa.org.
The sister of Robert Foltz-Morrison (whose name was Betsy) completed this part of life on July 17, 2014. Robert is the executive presbyter in New York City Presbytery. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 475 Riverside Dr. #1600, New York, NY 10115-0016.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”