Canoeing the Mountains: Book Study – Holly Cameron & Sam Jackling

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord!

As we begin a new year, we recognize the adaptive challenges of being church in our time and culture. In October, our presbytery was blessed with a presentation by the Rev. Deborah Wright, and she named some of the adaptive challenges we are all facing:

  • 30% of our congregations have memberships under 50
  • 30% more are under 100 and spiraling downward
  • 40% of our churches cannot afford installed pastoral leadership

A majority of larger congregations are on a similar downward trajectory with lower memberships, lower worship attendance and lower levels of engagement.  The Church is increasingly less effective at engaging Gen-X and Millennial Christians and seekers.  While we pretend that classic “if only” scenarios will reverse the growth problem (if only we had a good youth leader, if only we jazz up our music program, etc.), research confirms that the only projected growth in Christian religious expression in the U.S. is among the “Spiritual but not Religious” and the “Nones” (no religious affiliation), along with growth in historically African-American, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic congregations that attend to their immigrant populations, especially those from Latin America.  What is called for by all of us in this context is adaptive change, which is deep change that requires a review of all the assumptions, a radical separation from a “but we’ve always done it that way” mentality, and dedicated openness to the unknown – in search of new models of mission and ministry.

Deborah is part of the consulting program called PneuMatrix, and five our churches are now engaged in that process of learning about adaptive change, and making changes in their congregations.  They are being led by five trained apprentices from our Presbytery. The book we are following is Canoeing the Mountains, by Tod Bolsinger. The Committee on Ministry is also in the process of studying the book, and is sharing the book with our whole presbytery. We will be hosting blogs about the book on the Presbytery blog: www.albanypresbytery.org/blog

We are giving a book to every congregation and every Teaching Elder; and plan to do a book study at a Presbytery meeting this year. We are hoping this will provide discussion and inspiration for where God is leading each of our ministries.  Our hope is that your Presbytery delegates will read the book and participate in the book study meeting when it is established.  We hope, too, that you will find this resource helpful and will want to share it within your own ministries.  

We wish you many blessings in 2017, and are available for any questions or concerns you may have.  We trust God’s Spirit will continue to lead all of us into the future God has planned for us!

On behalf of the Committee on Ministry,

The Rev. Holly S. Cameron, Ruling Elder Sam Jackling
Co-Chairs, Committee on Ministry


Holly spent most of her growing-up years in Alabama, and went to college
at Auburn University. She studied accounting and worked as a CPA for a
time. She earned her graduate degree at Harvard Divinity School, and has
been the pastor at New Scotland Presbyterian Church since 1998.

Sam Jackling, a retired Environmental Chemist is a Ruling Elder at the Broadalbin First Presbyterian Church and a member of the Presbytery Committee on Ministry. He can be reached at [email protected]

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond.  While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery council.  Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.