An Invitation to Dream with Us – Report of the NJ Missional Structures Working Group

Just a couple of weeks ago I posted that the New Jersey  Missional Structures Working Group will be holding listening sessions in each presbytery. The Working Group published additional information about their work, the Listening sessions and an invitation for all to join in this very important conversation.

NJ Missional Structures Working Group – Letter of Invitation to Presbyteries

The Newton Listening Session is scheduled for Wednesday, October 17, 7 PM at Hilltop Presbyterian Church in Mendham.

An Invitation to Dream With Us

Dear New Jersey congregations of the PC(USA):

Greetings from the Synod of the Northeast’s New Jersey Missional Structures Working Group! If you wonder how our group came about, please read the attached “Overture to the Synod of the Northeast.”

What we’ve been up to…
Over the last four months, we’ve convened three full-day meetings to share the blessings and challenges of our presbyteries and to listen for the new thing that God is doing in and with the Church. Together we’ve re-imagined missional life, and with that in mind, the form and function of our presbyteries.

Together, we have been praying; reflecting on scripture; gathering information about the seven presbyteries of New Jersey, naming rural, urban and suburban realities in our state; and listening for where God’s Spirit is leading Christ’s Church into the future.

We’ve acknowledged the challenges of declining human and other resources (detailed in the Overture) and reaffirmed that God will provide what we need to share the Good News and serve as Matthew 25 and 28 instruct.

We have discussed the challenges that churches face in light of the rapidly changing world around us and our need to be responsive to the Spirit of God. This requires new ways of being that are adaptive, responsive, and imaginative. We also recognized that such nimbleness requires skilled staffing for our presbyteries and robust leadership training and support for our churches.

What our process will be…
Our work of deep listening to the Spirit will require continued conversation with all stakeholders, and guidance from those who currently hold governance responsibilities with their existing presbyteries. We will also engage with the Synod and General Assembly missional resources and governance processes at the appropriate times.

We envision reducing the number of presbyteries in the state from seven to three or four, which would occur over the next two years. The Church’s ministries and methods in the 21st Century are changing, and we discern that God’s provision for our ministry is taking a new form: fewer separate entities and greater collaboration, bringing about a new state-wide missional community.

What we’ve imagined…
We see and celebrate what the Church has been at its best, and dream of what the Church can be. We believe, now more than ever, that congregations and presbyteries are gifted by God to be in relationship with one another for the sake of Christ: we are better together than we ever could be on our own.

Believing this:

What if our focus on mission and ministry benefitted from sharing human and other resources among presbyteries?

What if having fewer presbyteries lightened the organizational load, freeing the energy, love and imagination of our leaders to respond to the current needs around us?

What if church leaders were trained to lead flexible, adaptive, and entrepreneurial ministries?

What if a new level of collaboration and fellowship emerged among neighboring congregations?

How might that strengthen our congregations’ impact in our communities?

What if our new vitality freed us to bring hope and new life to the state of New Jersey?

An invitation to you…

In the spirit of partnership and collaboration, we are now reaching out to all PC(USA) churches and presbyters in New Jersey. We request your prayerful participation in listening sessions that are being scheduled in each of our presbyteries (see below for dates, times, and locations). Representatives from the Missional Structures Working Group will facilitate these sessions. To prepare for these, we offer the attached topics and questions for reflection and conversation.

We believe that this is a kairos moment—that the time is right and our presbyteries in New Jersey are in a unique position to explore new ways of being the Church, taking the lead as our denomination imagines anew the form and function of its mid-councils. We thank God for all of you, and the good and faithful work of your congregations and presbyteries; and we can’t wait to share in the future that God has in store for us. Thanks be to God!

The New Jersey Missional Structures Working Group:

Linwood Bagby –  Elizabeth
Carl Wilton – Elizabeth
Diane Ford – Monmouth
Bruce Campbell – New Brunswick
Jim Huang – New Brunswick
Doris Peterson – Newark
Laura Phillips – Newark
Amy Lawrence – Newton
Alison Paden – Newton
Leah Fowler – Palisades
Andy Smith – Palisades
Don Painter – West Jersey
Floyd White – West Jersey


NJ Missional Structures Working Group – Letter of Invitation to Presbyteries