Transformation, Brought to You by the Synod of the Northeast


Recently I interviewed Amy Lincoln, Pastor of the Highlands Presbyterian Church and our presbytery’s Commissioner to the Synod of the Northeast, in order to understand a little better how our Per Capita and Mission dollars are spent at this level, and what ministries it offers in our region (New Jersey up through New England).

Jeff:  There has been criticism over the years that Synods are unnecessary. How do you respond to that?

Amy: I have to admit just a few years ago I was a Synod skeptic. I was one of those people asking, “Why do we need this extra layer of church government when it is so tough to get people just to come to church or even visit a presbytery meeting?” So, I brought my secret skepticism and prayed that God would show me if the work of the Synod is something to believe in.

Jeff:  What changed your mind, and how did you become involved in the work of the Synod so enthusiastically?

Amy: I was asked by Newton Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the Synod Assembly in 2014. I was impressed first by the diversity of commissioners and knew immediately that I had something to learn from those Presbyterians who cared enough to be present at this meeting and did not look like me. They had stories I wanted to hear about how God had brought them to serve in this way.

Next, what grabbed my attention, were the bright, younger voices involved in the visioning and planning of the New Way Forward program. It wasn’t just the same older folks in suits who were doing the work in this arena but also younger folks who care, are helping lead the discussions, and their voices matter about shaping the future too.

As the meeting went on I heard the Synod Assembly take seriously the voices of the YADs (Youth Advisory Delegates) who asked about being invited to the table – but without vote – and whether that could be changed in order that they are fully included. From that day forward the Synod Assembly and Commission both regularly worked as a ‘committee of the whole’ so that YADs could have voice and vote. That also set in motion the creation of an Overture to General Assembly to open the way for a possible denomination-wide polity change, as people could be specifically commissioned to serve at mid-level governing bodies without having been ordained as an elder. This work is still ongoing.

All this is to say that in that first Synod Assembly, as I paid attention to the work being done and the way the Holy Spirit powered the innovation in Synod reshaping itself, my heart was changed and I became a believer in the work of the Synod of the Northeast and in the New Way Forward. I have joyfully continued serving on the Synod Mission and Ministry Commission for Newton Presbytery.

Jeff: After that initial change in attitude, what else engaged you about the work of the Synod and what it has in store for the future?

Amy:  As a member of the Working Group on Mission, in addition to the regular work of discerning Innovation and Campus Ministry grant funding, I have taken on a number of extra projects, including:

  • serving as one of three Witherspoon Street Reconciliation Initiative task force members, writing a portion of the liturgy for the Reconciliation worship service,
  • making site visits to two different Innovation in Ministry Grant requestors in Trenton NJ to learn more about the projects there,
  • and writing a piece for the April Synod E-blast, reporting on the Innovation Grants made at the January Synod Commission meeting.

New energy for me in ministry increasingly comes from Synod initiatives. Having received a Synod Scholarship for Pastoral Coaching, I now have a coach with whom I meet regularly on Skype for ministry discernment and support. The Anti-Racism training led by Crossroads and offered by the Synod last year awoke in me the desire to participate in the Summit on Race of Newton Presbytery to help raise awareness of the ways racism still divides us and identify ways to seek reconciliation. Having received a Synod scholarship to attend Mediation Training, I was able to attend the Mediation Training at Stony Point in 2016 and learn the tools I need to practice helping those in conflict find common ground and an agreeable way forward. The Fundraising Training offered at Bloomfield College in 2016 was also an event I participated in so that I have a basic knowledge of skills for development work.

Finally, and possibly the most rewarding part of plugging into the work of the Synod of the Northeast, are the relationships with colleagues in a wider and more diverse sphere of the Presbyterian universe. One of my new friends and colleagues, the Rev. James Reese, just celebrated his 68th year of Ordained ministry in the PCUSA, and continues at age 93 to give of his time and energy toward the work we do together!

Jeff: You’ve certainly named a number of ministries and training courses I wasn’t aware of. How can we learn more about the work of the Synod and the innovations in ministry it offers?

Amy:  The ‘Come to the Table’ Synod event planned for September 22 and 23 at Stony Point Center in NY is the perfect way for you to ‘come and see’ what the Synod work is about and discern how you could plug into their ongoing ministry work in the wider church. Check it out at: Who knows, maybe God will also transform your heart and renew your energy for ministry through the Synod of the Northeast?

by Jeff Hatch, Communications Team of the PCT