Mid Councils Newsletter September 22, 2014
This past summer my husband and I attended an event that has become a summertime tradition for us. It is a ballroom dance weekend at Northern Illinois University. When we first began dancing more than a decade ago, we discovered a whole society of dancers and lessons and weekends like this one that we had no idea about from the “outside.” I suspect many hobbies are like this; until you become a devotee you have no idea how extensive the network around the interest really is. This weekend that we attend is held in the student center at Northern. It is the kind of facility that has hotel rooms and banquet and other facilities in the same building. The weekend is held there mostly because it has a ballroom with one of the biggest wooden dance floors in the state. If you have ever done any kind of dancing, then you know that dancers always seek out a real wooden floor if they can find one. The schedule had us there from Friday afternoon through Sunday noon for dances and lessons throughout that time.
This year there was another group in the facility. It was some kind of regional gathering of United Methodist Women. They were wearing the same type of nametags we wear at General Assembly. They were bustling around looking very self-important. I imagine we look that way to other people when we are so seriously approaching all of the business at an assembly. What really drew my attention to their meeting, though, was something that happened on Sunday morning. My husband and I and several of the other dancers were in the coffee shop getting breakfast. A long hallway that connects the front and back parts of the building runs alongside the coffee shop area. One of the women at the conference came bustling along about 7:30 in the morning wearing her nametag and she was very upset. We knew this because she was yelling at another member of her meeting and at a staff person of the facility. Apparently, a room that was supposed to be unlocked was not yet unlocked. Her demeanor made it seem that the locked door was the worst disaster ever and that some dire consequence would happen because there had been a delay of several minutes in her access to whatever was behind the door.
Several things occurred to me. Because she was wearing a nametag that identified her as a church member, everyone in the place might be drawing their own conclusions about church people from her behavior. I also felt bad for the employee at whom she was so furious. My husband had talked to the person a few minutes before and knew that she had been at the desk of the hotel part of the facility all night. She was just about to go home to sleep a little and she almost made it to the end of her shift unscathed, but then this happened. Mostly I thought about how we probably look to people at General Assembly or other national meetings or at presbytery meetings and the like. Whatever we are doing has such importance for us, but sometimes we probably need to have a little perspective.
Is the lunch late being prepared or delivered at a presbytery meeting? Sing another hymn. Is the moderator of a committee unprepared for a meeting? Remember it is their volunteer work and be ready to back them up or work with them ahead of time to help them to be as prepared as possible. Did the General Assembly make a decision that seems to have made your life harder in the months since the assembly? Help your presbytery and its member churches put it into its proper perspective. Are there still children being baptized; are there still hungry people being fed by your congregations; are there still sessions debating how best to use the gifts with which they have been blessed by God in order to bring hope into peoples’ lives?
I was at a meeting recently where a young person had been asked to lead (without accompaniment) the song “They Will Know We Are Christians.” She had the words on her phone, but was struggling getting the tune going. I am not sure she had ever heard it. So, I started singing it from the back of the room and she took it from there. It is an old song but it still reminds us of the fundamental fact that, just as they did in the first century, people outside of the church are watching us to see what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. How has it changed our lives? How do we respond to adversity? How do we treat the desk clerk when things are not exactly perfect? After all, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Here are the staff/officer changes we know about in presbyteries and synods since the last list was posted a few months ago. If you know of other changes, please let me know by replying to this newsletter.
- Cascades Presbytery: Be sure to add Dawn Champoux to your list as one of the presbytery executives.
- John Knox: Chaz Ruark has been called to be the presbyter.
- Mississippi: Steve Puryear is serving as clerk and administrative executive
- Missouri River Valley: Sara Dingman will soon complete her interim there.
- Northern New England: Cindy Kohlman is the resource person for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
- Riverside Presbytery has a vacancy in the executive role.
- Seattle: The stated clerk is now Kevin Nollette, who continues to also serve as the associate exec there and is also the acting exec for Central Washington.
- South Dakota: The new stated clerk is Kevin Veldhuizen. Evelyn Reynen has retired after many years of service there.
- Tampa Bay: Charles Perrine is the acting executive.
- Twin Cities Area: Jim Brasel is the acting executive.
- Western Kentucky: Rich Cooper has retired. Ken Dick is the interim presbytery administrator.
- Wyoming: The position of presbytery executive has been eliminated.
- Synod of Lincoln Trails: Sara Dingman has been elected as the interim synod executive and will begin this fall.
- Synod of the Trinity: Bruce Stevens has retired and Susan Wonderland is the synod executive.
- Shenandoah: The stated clerk of Shenandoah Presbytery is now Kerry Foster.
- West Jersey: The stated clerk is no longer Donna Cook. It is now Wendy Boer.
Don’t forget to register for the upcoming fall meetings. In October, the Association of Mid Council Leaders will be meeting October 17–19, followed by the Polity Conference beginning the evening of October 19 through October 21. The Association of Stated Clerks will then meet October 22 and October 23. I hope to see you at one or all of these conferences. And, remember that there are scholarships available in the amount of $200 for one person from each presbytery with 5,000 or fewer members.
In November, the Moderator’s Conference will occur. I hope that you will send either your current moderator, your moderator-elect, or both. The conference is from November 7 through November 9. This will give your leadership a chance to visit the Presbyterian Center, to engage in workshops about the kind of work they will be doing during their moderatorial year, and to hear from some local presbyteries about creative and innovative forms of ministry and mission. Again, there are scholarships available in the amount of $200. This time it is for presbyteries with 7,500 or fewer members.
As a part of the work of the Mid Council Ministries area of the Office of the General Assembly, we have been reviewing the mandates from General Assemblies for the work that we do. One of those has to do with encouraging presbyteries to remind their commissioners to each General Assembly that their commission lasts for two years. So, this is your reminder about that. How do your commissioners continue their service to your presbytery and the broader church when they get home from General Assembly? Do they report to the presbytery about the General Assembly? Do they meet with disgruntled people? (Wouldn’t it be fun if we could have meetings where there were only “gruntled” people?) Maybe you ask them to help with the orientation for the commissioners to the next General Assembly. Other ideas? You could post them on the com matters or mgb matters google groups.
For All New Stated Clerks: Remember that there will be an orientation for you in Louisville on November 5-7. For more details, please contact Diane Minter at firstname.lastname@example.org.