Dear Colleagues of the Albany Presbytery,
I have been a member, with you, since my joining in 2013. Since then, there have been many changes to the Presbytery: painful departures, joyful arrivals, seasons of challenge, seasons of celebration. I am grateful for this body and the ways that you offer support, model faithfulness, and diligently strive to follow God’s calling.
You may have heard the phrase, “Living into our smallness” floating about the Presbytery. There is a good reason for us to orient ourselves toward downsizing; no staff position is full-time, the demographics of our churches are changing, we have a smaller financial base. Additionally, we have the blessing of a diverse Elder membership; those who are serving multiple ministries, multiple missions, have more than one job, parent school-aged children, care for aging parents, and/or providing childcare for the cutest grandkids. In summation, as the number of active Teaching and Ruling Elders have decreased within the Presbytery, our public and private responsibilities have not.
As you know; this is the formula for burnout, frustration, and resentment. I have observed for several years now a bemoaning of low Presbytery attendance. I have heard the worries over who will serve, how will we get it all done, why aren’t more involved, and what will become of us. We cannot continue this way. This is not sustainable.
I am a tinkerer. In my mind I see Albany Presbytery as a set of blocks; the largest being Staff, Committees, and Meetings. Smaller blocks are Moderators, Committee Chairs, Ruling Elders, Mission Partners, New Worshiping Communities, etc. Some of these blocks are plain pine cubes. Some of them are glittery triangle pieces. In my tinkery brain, I want to put them together in a structure of strength, where each piece fits comfortably and is valuable to the integrity of the whole system.
At a Coordinating Committee meeting, I found myself volunteering to pull together a team of tinkerers and wonderers to help me configure these blocks. We met once in July. We restarted meeting in January and plan to meet twice a month. Our foci are Presbytery Meetings and Committees. The goals are to rethink how we gather as a body so that our work and worship are life-giving, engaging, sustainable, faithful, and joyful. We need a structure that takes into account our assets and our diversity while focusing on the essentials and keeping our vows as Presbyterians.
My hope is that 2021 can be a year of “let’s try it.” The Restructuring Team does not want to immediately implement sweeping changes to how we do things. Rather, we want to offer a series of experiments and test cases that can help us all to think creatively. We will communicate clearly and often what we’re thinking about and trying. We will ask for input. We will keep you in mind. As a Presbytery, there is much we have to do, and much we get to do. It’s very exciting to think about. My prayer is that you can be curious with us and open to a little holy tinkering.
In hope and optimism,
Rev. A. Reilly, Teaching Elder PNECC Saratoga
On behalf of the Restructuring Team:
Ken Applegate, Kathryn Beilke, Bill Henderson, Andrea Holroyd, Kate Kotfila, Becca Putman, and Amaury Tañón-Santos