Pastor’s Post: Our Connectional Church, Part 1
As I have often said, there are a great many advantages to being part of a “connectional” church such as the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Sadly, we often don’t think about this dimension of our church experience except when we read headlines about controversial decisions made by our General Assembly, which meets every other summer. If we can put that thought aside for a moment, I’d like to share some of the real positives we gain from our relationship to the PCUSA nationally and regionally. This is a big topic, and I will spread my comments over the next several newsletters.
During our recent stewardship drive, we shared information about the “per capita” donation (currently about $37 for each member) that we are obligated to send to fund the work of the church regionally and nationally. We learned that most of this money is utilized by the Presbytery of Long Island to support the life and work of congregations in our area. Presbytery is the body that maintains the standards for education, skills and conduct for our professional clergy. It also oversees a variety of educational and training resources for church members in things like how to be an elder, how to serve as a deacon, how to manage finances, and so forth. Presbytery has a variety of ways it can help local churches when they encounter challenges and difficulties. It also organizes support for many different forms of local mission and manages relations with other denominations and faith groups. The Presbytery board of trustees exercises stewardship of Presbytery’s funds and interacts with local congregations in matters of property and financial management.
Presbytery is composed of all active PCUSA clergy on Long Island and lay representatives of all congregations. The Presbytery meets five or six times a year to conduct business. The Massapequa session appoints a person as “commissioner” or representative for each meeting of presbytery. Clerk Joan Tischner has been a frequent representative. Levittown session elects a representative each year, and Maria Studer is the current commissioner with Marilyn Rodahan serving as alternate. Presbytery meetings are held in different churches, so sooner or later it meets near us. The next meeting of Presbytery will take place on Tuesday, April 17 at Bellmore Presbyterian Church, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and will last several hours. If you would like to visit Presbytery and witness it at work, please feel free to do so. If you let me know your plans, I will arrange to introduce you, so the commissioners are aware of your presence and interest. I should add that not all Presbytery meetings are held on week days. It meets, frequently on a Saturday, to allow for greater participation from lay Presbyterians.
Beyond our local area, we are connected with the Synod of the Northeast, which keeps offices in upstate New York and covers New England and the greater New York area. Then, of course, we are part of the General Assembly which includes representation from all parts of the United States. Next month, I will give you a report on the activities of Synod, and then, as we move toward the meeting of General Assembly in St. Louis in June, I will brief you on the activities of the national church and what important issues will be brought up at GA this year.