Report of the Presbytery Leader to the Presbytery of Newton on January 12,2019

From the Presbytery Leader to the Presbytery of Newton on January 12, 2019

The New Jersey Presbyteries boundaries haven’t changed significantly for more than 50 years. In that time communities have changed, populations have shifted, highways have been built and the world has expanded. Our presbyteries have gained and lost members/congregations and leadership structures have evolved.

Conversations about the NJ Presbyteries boundaries informally started several years ago. In 2017 the Monmouth Presbytery overtured the Synod of the Northeast to partner with the New Jersey Presbyteries to engage in a larger conversation about our future with our present structures. Newton Presbytery concurred with the overture.

The Synod convened a Working group, made up of two representatives from each presbyter, two presbytery leaders and one stated clerk, along with staff from the Synod.  The group has been meeting throughout 2018 and is coming close to making recommendations to the Presbyteries’ leadership in February. Alison Paden (Mendham) and Amy Lawrence (Sussex) have served as our representatives.  I, along with Debby Brincivalli, Presbytery Leader of West Jersey Presbytery, have served as coaches to the group and liaisons for other Presbytery Leaders.  Carl Wilton, former stated Clerk of Monmouth Presbytery and author of the original overture has been the Book of Order/polity voice for the group.

In the plan that is still being developed, Newton Presbytery will expand into Passaic, Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. The exact boundaries are still being developed.  We will expand to be around 78 to 82 churches and somewhere between 3,500 to 5,000 more members.

The Presbytery Coordinating Team has had conversations over the last year about what this will mean for us as a community.  Whenever I speak about this to individuals or small groups some of the first questions are, “what will be the name of the presbytery?” or “Will we have to change the location of the Presbytery office?”. These are not our first questions. These questions are very far down the list of things we must do as we work through the next steps. Our conversations at PCT have not focused on the technical issues or challenges but on the adaptive question – How is God calling us to be a new community?

As we work through the technical challenges, with assistance from the Synod of the Northeast, we will also be working on the question of our community by getting to know each other. We will work on building relationships, listening to stories of hope and concern, sharing stories of our history and our future dreams, engaging in conversations and seeking together to discover where is God calling us to be a larger faith community.

The PCT is in the early planning for visits and gatherings with each other and the new congregations and pastors. You can be a part of this important step in our journey by volunteering to be a visitor to a session meeting or a congregational gathering. Or you can participate in the gatherings or visits.

Over the next several months we will be sharing information about the next steps and scheduling conversations about the proposal. Somewhere in the spring or early summer we will be voting on the next steps. The plan at this time is for the new plans to be implemented in early 2020.

Continue to pray for the presbyteries and their congregations. God is doing amazing things.