Presbytery Leader Report to March Presbytery meeting

This is the Report of the Presbytery Leader given to the Presbytery at the March 2017 meeting.

March 2017

This is technically the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Presbytery which is not the same as your congregations annual meeting. This is the time when we have printed for you the information from what happened last year. You can find financial reports and team and committee reports in the packet.

My report comments today go back to last year and move us into this year.

A week after the November election the presbytery met in Old Greenwich. I announced that we would be hosting listening sessions for the pastors. So they could have a safe space to share concerns, feelings, talk about next steps and to just vent about the difficult election cycle and the outcome of the election.

We officially hosted five gatherings over the next few weeks. We had 26 pastors participate. Since then there have been other informal gatherings, conversations with pastors and church leaders.

What did we learn from our gatherings?

There is anxiety among the pastors and leaders of the church and several months after the election that still continues.  Pastors feel isolated. Church leaders and Pastors don’t feel safe in expressing their thoughts, or interpretations of the Gospel that might be construed as political. Pastors are concerned about repercussions if they speak in prophetic ways about immigration, sanctuary or hospitality to undocumented and documented immigrants.

Many clergywomen have expressed the feeling of being devalued and marginalized and at the same time feel empowered by the growing Women’s March movement.  These feelings are not being openly expressed by some with their congregations. Again for fear that there will be accusations of being political or that they will not be heard.

The Faith Communities and the Presbytery gatherings need to be safe places for all people.  They need to be safe places to engage in the difficult conversations that are facing our culture today.

Being a safe place – a sanctuary in the broadest of terms has many adaptive issues and challenges attached to it. Today I am offering a few technical ways to approach the adaptive challenges of being a safe environment for all.

We need to create intentional SAFE spaces or environments to share concerns, feelings and difficult issues. And we need to participate. Saying it is not your problem or your issue or to say it doesn’t affect your church or your life is not helpful or supportive or true.

Within those safe spaces and environments, we need to listen to each other. Listen deeply. Listen to understand. Listen for the fear, anxiety and hope. Here is the technical part. The Presbytery’s Conflict Management Team has been practicing and has several listening workshops and presentations for your session, leadership retreat or gathering. Call on them to help with the deep listening we all need to do.

You are challenged to Learn with Open minds and hearts about the Sanctuary Movement and engage in conversations about white privilege. These conversations in a safe environment can begin to open up those places where people are anxious or fearful or wanting to learn.

Practice the Missional Habits. This habits are meant to be habits that open you and your faith community to where God is calling you into mission and ministry and to people who may be different from you. We have several trained facilitators who ready to come to your session retreat, leadership training or workshop.

We are being confronted with these issues, that have always been there, but we are now being called upon as people of faith to dig deep, to dig deep into our personal faith and disciples and to go deeper into where our faith as a community of Jesus Christ is being called. 

These maybe anxious times and they can also be fruitful and productive times. Don’t miss this opportunity. If you have questions about the workshops or resources that can assist you and your congregation, please give me or Stefanie Muntzel a call.