PRAYERS FOR OUR CHURCHES
In each issue of News to Use we highlight two churches to keep in our prayers. Please pray for these two churches:
We give thanks for the dedicated members of these churches as they seek to serve Jesus Christ.
- Albion, First United - served by David Shain
- Arcola PC - moderated by Rev. Matthew Froeschle
Food justice drives, environmental workshops, clothes closets, CROP Walks, special worship services, community outreach projects, special meals, fundraisers. . .what's happening in your congregation?
One great joy of living together in Presbyterian covenant community is sharing and learning about what's happening in our neighbors' congregations within the Presbytery.
Please send your happenings to be shared in News to Use, published on the 1st and 15th each month. Send your items to Stu Smith (email@example.com) or Rebecca Blair (firstname.lastname@example.org).
UPDATE ON STORM RESPONSE
HELPING OUR NEIGHBORS
Presbyterian Disaster Response has reached out to the Presbytery of Western Kentucky after a devastating tornado ripped through the area. PDA will be available to help with long-term recovery at the invitation of the Presbytery of Western Kentucky and with the approval of PCUSA leadership.
If you or your church is interested in serving on a PDA work team, now is the time to engage in advanced planning, so that our Presbytery can compile a list of available folks to be ready at the point that PDA issues an invitation for recovery teams. Please contact Rebecca to indicate your interest (319-930-7470 or email@example.com)
Let's generously support the PDA response to help our neighbors!
Gifts can be designated to DR000015 http://bit.ly/DR000015
CALLING ALL CLERKS OF SESSION
You're invited to join our new Lead Presbyter for Transformation and Stated Clerk, Dr. Rebecca Blair, for conversation, support, and continuing education about the role of Clerk of Session.
The rolls and records of each church must be reviewed annually. As is the case with so much in our lives, COVID has disrupted this review process. In partnership with COM, Rebecca has adapted the required review procedure for this time of COVID when we cannot meet in person.
Please attend the Session Minutes Review workshop for your region to be held virtually using Zoom-- OR if you are unable to attend that session you can join one in a nearby region or schedule an individual conversation!
We will make arrangements for those clerks of session without internet connectivity to join neighboring clerks at a church site, so that everyone has access to these sessions. Each session will take place on a Saturday morning to accommodate work schedules as much as possible. The schedule is printed below:
Greater Decatur -- Saturday, February 5, 10 am - Noon
First Capital -- Saturday, February 12, 10 am-Noon
River to River -- Saturday, February, 19, 10 am-Noon
The Bridge -- Saturday, February 26, 10 am-Noon
East Central -- Saturday, March 5, 10 am-Noon
Salt Fork -- Saturday, March 12, 10 am-Noon
In addition, Rebecca has developed a HANDBOOK FOR CLERKS OF SESSION with all the resources you will need to serve well in this role! She will share this resource on the Presbytery website along with the Minutes Review Sheet.
To sign up for a workshop slot, please fill out the SignUp Genius form by clicking this link:
Find the date of the session that you want to attend and add your name in one of the slots. Each session has a cap of 15 persons. Once you are registered, Rebecca will send you the Zoom link with the passcode.
Thanks for ALL that you do in service to the church!
LPTSC Dr. Rebecca Blair
reflections and care for those who serve in pandemic
Salt – Light – Hope
rebecca blair, lead presbyter for transformation | stated clerk
It's real, even for those among us who are deeply caring. Living virtually over the past two years has sequestered us from the kinds of human connections that we have grown to expect and value, sapping our energy in the anxieties of compelled change.
As we have virtually considered one another’s frustrations, confusions, sadness, and pain, perhaps we could not see the pained cast of each other’s eyes nor hear the uncertain, yet frustrated vocal intonations. Or perhaps we have become too weary to care. Yet, in this COVID exile we have found occasions to converse with each other in meaningful ways.
WHY DO THESE CONVERSATIONS FEEL SO MEANINGFUL?
Reflecting further, I realized the difference was centered in holding space. As we virtually gifted one another with deep presence and careful listening, we were holding space for each other.
And as we sought to be present with those in the throes of human conflicts in our churches and social groups, to listen for the messy humanity under the surface, we were also trying to figure out together how to hold space for others in these tightly knotted places. We were trying to figure out how to acknowledge in meaningful ways the worth of humans that we love and care about.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO "HOLD SPACE" FOR SOMEONE ELSE?
Heather Plett explains that “holding space” means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome, all the elements that contribute to the kinds of churchy conflicts we encounter.
When we hold space for other people, she observes, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. To put it in Mr. Rogers terms, we communicate that we “like” or accept others as fellow human beings "just the way they are."
In our roles as friends, teachers, ministers, coaches, or colleagues, we often encounter the need to hold space for someone else. But it’s certainly not easy to do at present when we feel particularly constrained, weary, inert.
How much simpler to just ignore circumstances, to judge or assign blame, to give advice, to issue directives, to take control, to just fix people and be done with it. Yet, what might happen if we gifted other people with our trust and support? What might happen if we stopped taking away their personal power (agency), blaming or shaming them, or overwhelming them with unrequested advice?
SOMETIMES WE FIND OURSELVES HOLDING SPACE FOR PEOPLE WHILE THEY HOLD SPACE FOR OTHERS.
As Plett notes, it’s virtually impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us.
Even the strongest leaders need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable without fear of being judged. All of us should have people in our lives, people in the Presbytery’s covenant community, that we trust to hold space for us. After all, that’s part of what the covenant is all about.
We are still accountable to each other for our actions in covenant community. And holding space for others is one way in which we express that accountability. In those knotty places in which people experience grief, the daunting need to change, the uncertain prompt to grow, how are we prepared to hold space with them?
As we walk together into a future that we cannot quite see yet, how can we offer one another unconditional love and support? How can we supply gentle guidance when it’s needed? How can we assure each other that we are safe even when we make mistakes for which we’re accountable in community? How can we step together outside some of our boxes to follow God’s transformative leading to the new thing in our midst?
For more information about Presbyterian Youth Triennium, contact Triennium Registrar Melinda (Mindy) Watts-Ellis, Director Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, First Presbyterian Church, Champaign, IL 61820
217-356-7238 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There are lots of posters, flyers, and postcards available!
by Alyson Janke
10 things ruling elders should know
In my work as a presbytery stated clerk, I am called upon to help equip ruling elders-elect for their service on the session and in the wider church. As a ruling elder myself, I recognize the need for polity education. Here are ten things I think every ruling elder should know.
1. God called you to this service.
Sometimes we think of serving on the session of our churches as “taking our turn on the board.” Although we responded to a nominating committee’s invitation, God was behind it. Being a ruling elder is a ministry to which we are ordained. Ruling elders (and deacons) answer the same questions at ordination as teaching elders (ministers) answer, except those questions specifically related to the duties of the ministry. Ordination is for life, even though terms on the session are limited. When a ruling elder is not serving on the session, he or she is still eligible to perform many of the functions of the ministry, such as being the clerk, assisting in the administration of the sacraments or being a commissioner to one of the more inclusive councils.
2. We are Presbyterian, not congregational or episcopal.
Congregational types of churches make decisions in congregational meetings. Episcopal types of churches authorize their bishops to make decisions for the life of the church. Presbyterians come together in groups elected by the people they serve to make decisions. These elected people are called presbyters, ruling elders and teaching elders (also called ministers of Word and Sacrament). Very few decisions are made by single individuals and very few decisions are made by vote of a congregation. Most decisions for the life of a congregation are made by the session. These range from providing for the worship, education and spiritual nurture of people in the congregation to managing the physical property of the church and adopting a budget.
3. There are four councils, or governing levels, in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The session is the council of the congregation. The congregation elects the persons who serve on its session. There is a moderator or co-moderators and the ruling elders elected for specific terms. The presbytery is all the congregations and teaching elders within a certain district (G-3.0301). The synod is a specific geographic area with at least three presbyteries (G-3.0401). The General Assembly is the council of the whole church (G-3.0501). When presbyteries, synods or the General Assembly meet as deliberative bodies they are composed of commissioners who are ruling elders and teaching elders in numbers as nearly equal as possible.
4. Presbyters are commissioners, not delegates or representatives.
Whether we are serving on our congregation’s session or as a commissioner to presbytery, synod, or General Assembly, we seek to “find and represent the will of Christ,” (F-3.0204) not those who elected us. While their opinions and positions inform us, they do not bind us. When we gather together we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, listen to discussion and debate and vote as we are led by the Spirit.
5. When presbyters are gathered as deliberative bodies, decisions are made by voting.
After opportunity for discussion and discernment, “a majority shall govern” (F-3.0205). We use the most recent edition of “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised” (RRONR) as our parliamentary authority (G-3.0105). RRONR is a tool that helps us determine the will of the body. It should never be used as a means of exercising power at the exclusion of fairness. We can understand this by keeping in mind three parliamentary principles which are identified in Marianne Wolfe’s booklet, “Parliamentary Procedures in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)”:
The rights and the unity of the body shall be preserved;
The will of the majority shall prevail;
The rights of the minority shall be protected.
We bear in mind that Christ is the head of the church (F-1.02) and all of the business we conduct should be done in a way that builds up the body of Christ.
6. “Ruling” in the title of ruling elders is about measuring spiritual health, not flexing power (G-2.0301).
It is their role to measure the spiritual health of the congregation entrusted to their care and make decisions that equip and strengthen the congregation’s discipleship. Ruling elders follow the example of Christ and lead by service while working with moderators of session and pastors.
7. Compassion is one of the prime characteristics of ruling elders.
In many Presbyterian churches there are deacons who carry out ministries of compassion, witness and service (G-2.0201). In the Presbyterian churches that have chosen not to have deacons, “the function of this ordered ministry shall be the responsibility of the ruling elders and the session” (G-2.0202). In either case, part of the role of the session is to be a compassionate witness in the congregation and community.
8. We sometimes disagree.
Occasionally people on church councils avoid disagreement in order to be “nice” or more “Christian.” As far back as 1788, Presbyterians recognized that “there are truths and forms with respect to which men (people) of good character and principles may differ” and that we then need to exercise “mutual forbearance” (F-3.0105). Disagreement is not a bad thing when it is expressed in ways that do not disturb the “peace, unity, and purity of the church” (W-4.4003g).
9. We are a constitutional church.
Presbyterians believe that our life together is best when lived with “a disciplined concern for order…” (F-2.08). Our constitution is more than a set of rules. Part 1 of the Constitution is the Book of Confessions, consisting of 12 documents whose origins span 1,800 years of church history. Part 2 of the constitution is the Book of Order with four sections describing the way we order our life together. It is important to remember that part 1 is the Book of Confessions, reminding us that the foundation of our polity is what we believe. Our specifications of order grow out of that foundation. Even the Book of Order begins with a three- chapter synopsis of what we believe (called The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity) before it launches into the other three sections: The Form of Government, The Directory for Worship and The Rules of Discipline. These living documents are changed by a specified method as often as every two years.
10. We are a connectional church.
Each congregation is part of a web of relationships in our Presbyterian family. Congregations connect to form presbyteries. In part, this means that each congregation and each session is accountable to the larger church through the presbytery. This accountability is expressed in requirements for annual reporting and review of session records. Presbyteries and synods are likewise accountable to the larger councils of which they are a part. We’re all in this together.
The decisions of one council influence the work of another. Persons ordained by one presbytery or session are ordained in the whole church. We support and pray for each other. Those elected as ruling elders may also be called upon to serve beyond the congregation as commissioners to presbytery, synod, or General Assembly.
Understanding these basic principles of Presbyterian polity can help us to be more comfortable in our roles as ruling elders and to serve and lead more effectively.
ALYSON JANKE is a ruling elder with varied experience in using and interpreting Presbyterian polity, including 26 years as the stated clerk of John Knox Presbytery; 11 years on the General Assembly’s Advisory Committee on the Constitution; and 17
Preliminary list of committees and schedule released for 2022 General Assembly
The Office of the General Assembly has presented a preliminary list –subject to revision – of the committees of the 2022 General Assembly, as well as a schedule of which committees are likely to meet when.
The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) received the list at its Dec. 16 Zoom meeting — but won’t act to approve it until probably in January, so some things may change as committee members offer feedback. But here’s the preliminary list (with more information at the link about business items that maybe assigned to particular committees).
- Assembly Committee on Business Referrals (ACBR)
- Bills and Overtures (B+O)
- General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures (GA-PAP)
- This committee will focus its work on administrative and internal issues related to the PC(USA) A Corporation and Administrative Services Group (ASG), the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) and the Office of the General Assembly (OGA).
- General Assembly Ministry Coordination (GA-MC) — This committee addresses outward-facing actions tied to A Corporation/ASG, PMA, and OGA operations. These include caucus and advocacy committee structures and awards.
- Standing Rules of the General Assembly (STAN) — All proposed changes to the Standing Rules.
- Financial Resources (FIN) — All financial and budget-related items from entities of the General Assembly. (Includes the Presbyterian Foundation and Investment and Loan Program.)
- Moving Forward and Vision 2020 (MOV) — The Moving Forward Implementation Special Committee recommendations (except for those related to the Organization for Mission and budget, which will be addressed by the appropriate committees above) and the Vision 2020 report.
- Mid Councils (MC) — Items of business directly related to the operations of presbyteries and synods.
- Polity (POL) — Amendments to the Book of Order section G.
- Rules of Discipline (ROD) — Amendments to the Book of Order section D.
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Engagement (ECU) — Items related to relationships with other denominations and faiths.
- Environmental Justice (ENV) — Items related to divestment, environmental policy, and a green future.
- Race and Gender Justice (RGJ) — Items related to justice issues surrounding racism, gender identity, and their intersection.
- Health, Safety, and Benefits (HSB) — Items related to health, safe spaces, and benefits. (Includes Board of Pensions.)
- International Engagement (INT) — Items related to policies and actions that include international partners.
- Immigration (IMM) — Items related to policies and actions related to immigration.
- Addressing Violence in the United States of America (VIOL) — Items related to gun violence, bullying, domestic violence, and violent language.
- Theology, Worship, and Education (TWE) — Amendments to the Book of Order section W, items related to theological and higher education, and items related to published materials. (Includes Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.)
Committee meeting schedule
This list is also preliminary until COGA approves it. The plan now is for all General Assembly committees to meet in person at the PC(USA)’s national office building in downtown Louisville — although OGA leaders are carefully monitoring the permutations of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Bills and Overtures (Meets June 19th)
- Mid Councils
- Theology, Worship, and Education
- Rules of Discipline
- Health, Safety, and Benefits
- Addressing Violence in the United States of America
- Environmental Justice
- Race and Gender Justice
COGA meeting on Dec. 16. Screenshot by Leslie Scanlon.
- Standing Rules
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Engagement
- International Engagement
June 29-July 3
- General Assembly Ministry Coordination
- Moving Forward and Vision 2020
- General Assembly Entity Policies and Procedures
- Financial Resources
Small variations in commissioner numbers occur due to room sizes. “Small” and “Large” indicate these variations.
Deputy Stated Clerk Kerry Rice said OGA leaders tried to think of the committees in some different ways for this assembly than has typically been done in the past. For example, committees working on budget issues are scheduled to meet during the last block — recognizing that some work of other committees might have financial implications.
J. Herbert Nelson
Herbert Nelson, the PC(USA)’s stated clerk, asked for prayer for the church, “for the ability to be flexible and to be innovative in this period” of change in the church and the world.