Dear Members and Friends of Albany Presbytery,
As the end of my time with you has been approaching, many of you have asked me what I’m doing next. The call process is long and confidential, but I am finally able to share what is next for me and answer the question so many of you have been so kind and gracious to ask me.
After nearly three and a half years my time as the Transitional Presbyter for Albany Presbytery will come to an end on June 30, 2017. It’s been both wonderful and challenging. Mid-council leadership at this moment in the life of the Church is an amazing space to create change and asks some of the most of you in creativity, adaptability, faithfulness and flexibility. I have been honored in Albany to be part of the birth of New Worshiping Communities, some fantastic ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, serving with great pastoral leaders, congregations and community organizers, engaging in transitional visioning/organization and some fun experimentation around cross-Presbytery leadership as part of prototyping the future.
At their Stated Meeting on May 6, 2017, the Presbytery of Southern New England voted to call me as their next installed General Presbyter. I will begin ministry with them on August 1, 2017. The Presbytery of Southern New England spans the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and western Massachusetts and includes Hartford Seminary and Yale Divinity School in its bounds, so it will also be great fun to connect more deeply again to these institutions. Ecumenical ministry is a high value in Southern New England as it has been here in Albany, so I am glad that I will get to continue to work at a deep level with other denominations.
My family is not moving, we are staying here at our home in Albany. Juan will continue to teach at Doane Stuart and Sofia will continue as a student at Guilderland High School. I’ll be commuting in and spending time in Southern New England but the position is 3/4 time and already has had a virtual office for a number of years. This gives me the flexibility to pursue some other callings that have been working on my spirit.
As I served in Albany Presbytery, I used the image of a piece of art that I photographed just before I began. This image has been a part of my presentations to the Presbytery for the last three years and has been a guide to me in my work. The question this piece of art prompts is:
Are the green tips on those brown branches all that is left, or are they the beginning of a new greening? The answer lies in the hands of those that tend the garden. -A Hedge Against Extinction (artist Martin Webster), in the North Carolina Arboretum
I have a new image in my mind as I begin in Southern New England and as you begin the next steps of your ministry in Albany Presbytery:
Last fall the Rev. Susan Schultz (former pastor at Stephentown Federated Church in our Presbytery) gifted me with some of her plants from her beautiful perennial-labyrinth in her backyard. I worked and tilled the garden that day, digging things up, throwing things out, planting new things, putting in fertilizer, battling a swarm of ants that hatched in the middle of it all, got bitten, and transplanted some plants from the backyard. This garden (which is still in formation) is my image moving forward.
We are going to have to dig up a bunch of things in the Church. We are also going to have to throw things out, plant something new, borrow from friends (both plants and knowledge), put down the right nutrients, battle swarms of who-knows-what, get bitten, wet, messy and hot. We are going to have to bring the water. Some things are going to have to be moved from one location to another. We are going to have to use our muscles and tear some things up. We must pray more than we usually do. Not everything will be in neat rows and do what we think we want it to do. And we need to shed some tears and probably deal with some bruises, bites and other such things. We don’t know if we’ll even see what we do take shape, grow or flower. (I know we all find this terribly frustrating!) Meaning will sometimes be elusive. It will be dirty. But we must resist in this time by creating beauty.
Two weeks ago members of our Presbytery gathered with those working on Committees on Ministry in our neighboring Presbyteries of Susquehanna Valley, Utica, Geneva, Cayuga-Syracuse and Northern New England for a retreat. During the retreat we explored a number of themes and images for our ministry, one of which was a garden.
Our biblical narrative that guides our lives begins and ends in a garden. And gardens are beautiful, organized, messy, and wild all at the same time. Gardens are not ours alone because we are only working with the Creation that has been given to us. So my new image is this garden I started last year. And I’m clearing it out now that spring is here and the plants are growing and about to flower. My prayer is that as this Presbytery journeys into its future, some of which is unknown, that this image of a garden will sustain and keep you.
I will be spending my final few weeks of ministry here attending one final meeting of each committee and team of the Presbytery. Next week the chairpersons of these committees will gather at a leadership retreat where we will look at staffing, structure and budget needs. I will be at the June 6th Presbytery meeting in Northville and have a few final preaching engagements and one last installation to be part of, that of Rev. Henry Kim at Brunswick Church on Sunday June 25th at 2PM. My last day in the office will be June 28th as I will be leaving in the late afternoon to head to Stony Point Center for two days of the Synod Collegium meeting.
Please let me know if you’d like to get together before my time here ends, I would love to make as many of these gatherings as possible happen. Please know that even though you might still see me around town after June 30, 2017 I will maintain appropriate boundaries around the future ministries and life of the this Presbytery.
Once again, it’s been such a blessing to be in ministry with all of you and I will always hold this Presbytery in my deepest thoughts and prayers.