An Update From Our Vice Moderator
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”– Isaiah 43:19
Whenever I lead officer training I make a point of informing elders-elect of our Church’s conviction that the role of an elder is not to do what they want to do, nor is it to poll the congregation to do what the congregation wants to do. It is to figure out what God wants us to do together. This always leads to a certain amount of anxiety as some want to know, “well how am I supposed to know what God wants us to do?” I’ve never had an easy answer to that question but I do have an answer – pray, study scripture with others, come to worship, and listen well. Then take a risk trusting that if you miss the mark a bit you can always change what you are doing.
The Gathering Team met recently and discerned that in 2023 we are being called to do some things differently. When the Presbytery first shifted from “meetings” to “gatherings” almost ten years ago, the purpose was to deepen a sense of community and connection. Coinciding with a strategic planning process that resulted in an overhaul of the Presbytery’s organizational structure, the hope was that we could set aside a large chunk of time for us to worship and study together, not just meet to take care of business. A lot has changed since that time including a global pandemic which proved that more of us could learn how to use technology than we thought. In addition, all kinds of spaces exist now for community and connection, spaces that didn’t exist when we shifted to a “all on one day” mentality. For example, successful ministry groups and the racial justice educational events and trainings are places where pastors and elders now invest significant time where relationships are established and deepened. As the current strategic planning process deepens, we anticipate additional groups and activities emerging to directly address the Presbytery’s ministry needs and missional commitments in the world.
The Gathering Team has concluded that God is doing a new thing and we want to make space to see if that new thing includes returning to Presbytery meetings that are shorter and accessible, encouraging presbyters to take the time that we save from this area and invest that time in these other spaces where relationships can deepen. To that end, all of our Presbytery meetings in 2023 will be online only, except for the September meeting when we intend to have a longer celebration that includes full worship, food and fellowship (It’s our 900th!). Although the meeting portion of that event will include a hybrid option, we highly encourage presbyters to attend in person this September meeting. The rest of the meetings will include a short devotion led by a commission of the Presbytery along with opportunities for the commissions to update us all on their work on behalf of the Presbytery.
In coming to this decision we looked at attendance data, shared our own reflections, and listened to those of others. We will continue to evaluate these and other measures throughout this experimental year. Feel free to email me your thoughts or share them with any member of the Gathering team. We will continue to discern together what next adventures God has in store for us together as a Presbytery.
– Rev. Andrew Connors, Gathering Team Chair and Vice Moderator
and the Gathering Team: