The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, therefore ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into the harvest. Luke 10:2
With 58 congregations and over 10,000 members, the work of the presbytery can be overwhelming. Yet once again the staff, pastors, elders, deacons and members of the congregations of our presbytery stepped up to tackle the work of the harvest. We accomplished a lot this last year and we recognize that there is always more to do.
A priority for the work of the presbytery is to resource congregations so that they can do the work of the harvest in their neighborhoods and communities. Our Resourcing Coordinator, Robin Curras, responded lots of emails and phone calls, provided for workshops on the Missional Practices and met with many congregations and sessions are a variety of issues and concerns. The Stated Clerk, Jeremy Campbell, fielded Book of Order questions, resourced and trained Commissions and Clerks of Session, provided administrative and creative support for the Presbytery meetings and partnered with me through many tough issues that arose this past year. Sonja Gaertner and Liz Hutchinson answered hundreds of questions, kept the communications, finances, presbytery meetings and office running smoothly and did it all with grace and a smile.
Our committees and teams provided a lot of resourcing for our congregations through their work. They helped congregations connect with new pastors, provided discernment process support, encouraged and supported new and innovative ideas, provided workshops and seminars that resourced finances, personnel committees, stewardship, missional practices and leadership development and growth.
Our vision statement reminds us that part of what we do is to learn together. This last year we had many learning together opportunities. Our Presbytery meetings focused on “What Breaks God’s heart?” We learned about the opioid addiction in our communities and shared the sacred stories from #Metoo. Amanda Craft, from the Immigration Support office of the General Assembly, provided a workshop on Immigration issues and shared with us at the September meeting stories about how the PCUSA works to welcome the stranger in a world that feels hostile to immigrants. We tackled the concerns of gun violence and learned ways that as congregations we can help prevent and protect against gun violence. These have not been easy conversations and yet members of this presbytery were gracious and willing to listen to where God’s heart is breaking.
It has been a multiyear priority to continue to work towards financial sustainability. This year we launched the Jim and Marie Chesnutt Fund. Through donations and funds from sale of properties the Chesnutt fund has over $100,000, half way to our goal. We also overtured the General Assembly to investigate other options to the Per Capita System, which has been the nationwide source funding ministry for over 100 years. The Overture enthusiastically passed the General Assembly and I have been appointed to serve on that GA committee. More information will be coming of this next year.
Missional Structures of New Jersey Presbyteries
For more than 50 years there have been seven presbyteries in New Jersey. But times have changed. Congregations have changed in size, both more and less. Churches have closed. Congregations have left the denomination for a variety of reasons. Others have chosen to not participate. Things change. For all the reasons listed and more the structures of the presbyteries must change.
2018 has been the year of conversations and listening to what will the Presbytery structures look like and how will they be new Missional structures providing support and resources for the congregations. I along with the Presbytery Leader from West Jersey served on the Missional Structures Working Group as coaches. 2019 will be the year we begin the process of becoming something new.
New Year ahead
2019 will be an exciting year of change and discernment of where God is calling this presbytery next. I truly appreciate all the support of the leadership, staff, pastors and congregations and their willingness to partner together on this journey.
“Peace to this house” Luke 10: 5b