Tag Archive | Becoming One

Pastor’s Post – February 2017

From-the-Pastor-2From the Pastor:

I am pleased to announce that our two congregations will be presenting our Plumbline Report to the Presbytery Committee on Ministry on Tuesday, February 7 at 2 p.m. in the Presbytery headquarters in Commack.  Assuming that our report is approved, we will be placed on the docket of the Presbytery meeting that will be held on Tuesday, March 21.  Presbytery will move to appoint a  “commission,” which will be a small group drawn from both churches and from the Presbytery at large.  The commission will do a lot of the detail work involved in arranging the merger, such as the legal processes that will be necessary to dissolve two congregations and bring a new one into existence which will “inherit” the buildings and assets of the two older congregations.

While the commission is working on the details, the rest of us will be preparing for life together in the new congregation.  I am planning a series of small, week-day evening communion services during Lent, at which we will share the Lord’s Supper with people from both churches.  I will invite each of you to a specific service either in a home or at one of our church buildings.  Before partaking of communion, we will spend some time getting to know each other better and to talk about our hopes and fears for the future of our new congregation.  We will pray for the success of our new enterprise.

Please get out your copy of our Plumbline Report.  We mailed it to all members right around January 1, and I hope you still have yours.  If not, please give me a call, and I will get another one to you.  The third section, “What is God Calling us to Do?”  includes several commitments we are making to prepare ourselves for a dynamic new way of being church.  You will see in those paragraphs several important goals:

1) Deepening our worship experience through the use of silence, audiovisual aids and other innovations;

2) Training ourselves in conflict management;

3) Working to make our congregation truly open and welcoming to all inquirers;

4) Training ourselves to do effective outreach to people in our community including learning how to utilize modern forms of communication to stay connected with each other and to share our invitations with a wide audience;

5) Exploring the best ways to continue our commitment to the welfare of children in our communities, possibly moving toward comprehensive child care service;

6) Taking seriously the needs of our aging neighbors, many of whom are isolated and struggling with depression as well as physical infirmities.

With the cooperation of the sessions, I will be organizing events and opportunities to pursue these goals in coming months.  This will be an exciting and challenging year, and I urge you to think of it as an adventure in the life of faith, something that will carry Christ’s community far into the future.  Yes, we are blessed to be here, in this place at this time!  Thanks be to God.

-Pastor Lou

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A special note on current events:

It is difficult to talk about politics in the context of the church.  We all understand that we do not want political differences to get in the way of our fellowship in Christ, yet many of us feel strongly one way or the other about recent events.  I think it is important to recognize that our national political life has entered a time of unprecedented confusion and conflict.  If you find the news these days to be even more upsetting than usual, I want you to feel free to talk to me about it.  It is always good to be able to share our concerns about public affairs with a friend and to pray together.   Discussing things in a non-judgmental atmosphere helps to lower our anxiety level, and we can be reminded of the enduring value of Christ’s teachings and the spiritual and emotional comfort we gain from the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor’s Post – January 2017

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A Friend on the Road Ahead:  Working with Presbytery 

 This year, 2017, our two congregations will continue on our road toward merger.  It is my hope and expectation that at Easter of 2018 (April 1) we will have a grand celebration of our new unified church.

Celebrating with us at that time, I trust, will be many representatives of other Presbyterian churches on Long Island.  These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, joined together with us as members of the Presbytery of Long Island.  As we move down our road this year, the Presbytery will become a more visible and important partner for us.  It is important that we have a clear understanding of the role of Presbytery in our congregational life.

The Presbyterian Church in the USA is a part of the worldwide fellowship of Reformed churches.  This means we are theological and ecclesiological descendants of the church that John Calvin founded in Geneva, Switzerland in the 16th century.  Our more immediate spiritual ancestors were the people of the Church of Scotland.  Reformed theology leads quite naturally to democratic governance.  Instead of relying on bishops and priests to make decisions for us, we govern ourselves.  All authority among Presbyterians is derived from church members who elect their ruling elders and their teaching elders (pastors).

In order to maintain a unity of purpose and practice and to organize missions and educational institutions, the Presbyterian Church maintains regional and national councils.  Thus, our two congregations are members of the Presbytery of Long Island, the Synod of the Northeast, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

The Presbytery of Long Island has 55 local congregations within it.  There are 67 lay commissioners who represent these congregations when Presbytery meets, which is about five times a year.  (There are a few large congregations who are allowed to send more than one person to Presbytery, and that is why there are more commissioners than congregations.)  There are also over 100 clergy serving or retired who are eligible to attend and vote at Presbytery meetings.  Some of these clergy are living outside the area or are not interested in being active, so the number actually present at any given meeting of Presbytery is much lower.

Presbytery maintains a number of committees.  Arguably, the most important of these are the Committee on Ministry which oversees business related to our clergy, and the Board of Trustees, which is responsible for matters involving finance and real estate.

Our two congregations are represented in the Presbytery of Long Island by our clergy (currently, that’s me) and lay persons (one for Levittown and one for Massapequa) who are elected by their respective sessions.  At the present time, Maria Studer represents Levittown Church with Marilyn Rodahan as alternate. Massapequa Church does not have a designated commissioner but seeks volunteers from meeting to meeting.

Our congregations contribute funds to help keep Presbytery and the Synod and General Assembly operating.  We most often get involved with Presbytery when we are choosing pastoral leadership.  This is because Presbytery is responsible for vetting and approving all clergy working in our congregations.  Presbytery also plays an important role when disputes arise between clergy and their congregants.

Presbytery is also involved in the stewardship of real property owned by congregations.  Any sale or long-term lease of a manse or a church building must be approved by Presbytery.  This is to insure that these large assets are not wasted or stolen and that the proceeds from sales or leases are used to sustain and/or grow Presbyterian congregations and mission.  If a congregation remains active, it will almost certainly keep the proceeds of the sale of its real estate for its own use, although Presbytery may impose certain restrictions on how the funds are used.

I have observed over the years that congregations frequently find themselves at odds with Presbytery or one of its committees. It is easy to get into the mentality that Presbytery is some kind of outside force that is invading our business and messing up our plans.  It certainly is true that at times the need for Presbytery approval of an action leads to annoying delays.  However, if we remember that Presbytery is a body made up of people who have been democratically selected both to be leaders of their congregations and voting reps at Presbytery, then maybe we can overcome our unhappiness.  We are all in the Presbyterian boat together, and we need to respect those who we have been chosen to lead us at all levels of governance and administration.   If you think democracy is distressing, just consider the alternatives!

If we get better acquainted with Presbytery and its officers, I am sure we will find it will be a supportive ally in our efforts to re-organize and to create a new church and a revitalized ministry.

 

-Pastor Lou