This Unique Gathering of the Church

positive-attitudeIf you cannot find me in a congregation, you can surely find me in a Presbytery meeting. Rev. Jordan Davis and I spend much of our time attending Presbytery meetings to do the work of building church relationships with Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Imagine if your responsibilities included attending these meetings all over the state? I strive regularly to make the gatherings of three regional Presbyteries which total about twelve meetings per year…

How boring, right?

If some small voice inside of you shouted, “YES!” at my comment, then you are not alone.

I have spoken to teaching elders, ruling elders, and staff who recognize the importance of a regional gathering as the Presbytery, but perceive the meetings to be inconvenient, laborious, and predictable. And these comments are not particular to one geographic area over another. It seems many of us feel this way. However, there are no easy answers when considering how to better improve meetings when we wrestle with the following decisions:

Should we meet on a Tuesday or Saturday?

Would an afternoon meeting be better than an early morning meeting?

Where can we find the best space to accommodate the entire Presbytery?

Should lunch be free?

What about child care?

Will worship include a sermon or will there be a Bible study?

Do we use The Presbyterian Hymnal or should we sing from Glory to God?

Does the hosting site have wifi access?

…Why doesn’t the hosting site have wifi access?!

The answer to each abovementioned question will suit some but will be difficult, or require flexibility, for others. Similarly, there are items of importance which will occur at every meeting but there are also opportunities for fluidity and creativity in the schedule.

My hunch is our attitude toward this unique gathering of the Church influences our experience. Our attitude determines how we engage and value the time.

If we believe the meeting is an impediment on our work or life schedule, we may end up running through our mental to-do list during worship rather than being present with our sisters and brothers in Christ. If we believe the meeting to be laborious, we may lack a sincere interest in future candidates for ministry or we may decide to leave the meeting early. If we believe the meeting to be predictable, we may be less inclined to study up on important items brought forth in the agenda.

Our Book of Order defines the Presbytery as, “the council serving as the corporate expression of the church within a certain district and is composed of all the congregations and teaching elders within that district” (G-3.0301). The Presbytery is the larger, living, breathing body of Christ with a specific charge to be, “responsible for the government of the church throughout its district, and for assisting and supporting the witness of congregations to the sovereign activity of God in the world, so that all congregations become communities of faith, hope, love, and witness” (G-3.0301).

At Presbytery meetings, we gather to rejoice and worship the Lord, our God, in response to God’s amazing love and faithfulness. At Presbytery meetings, we discern the work of God’s Spirit among us through discussion and debate from our individual experience. At Presbytery meetings, we celebrate milestones and retirements, giving thanks for those things in the past and for those things in the future yet to come.  At Presbytery meetings, we share our perspectives, we share our lives, and we are the body of Christ.

Therefore, if we believe these things to be true about the role and responsibility of the Presbytery, our attitude toward this unique gathering of the Church may influence our experience.

If we believe that the Presbytery, gathered, serves to support the true witness of God’s sovereign activity in the world, our attitude toward this unique gathering of the Church may influence our experience.

If we believe that, through the diligent work of committees and task forces, missionaries and candidates for ministry, God’s amazing love is shared and celebrated in worship, consent docket, and at table over fellowship, our attitude toward this unique gathering of the Church may influence our experience.

In the words of Pastor Lon Solomon, “not a sermon, just a thought.”

Rev. Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer

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