On November 19th, a new moderator (our friend Michael Burkley) began his term as Moderator of Albany Presbytery, and I became a Past Moderator of Albany Presbytery. While I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed serving this year, I am ready to be done. I’ve been a part of this presbytery for more than 35 years, even so, acting as moderator has provided a new perspective. Some of the things I have learned:
- We need to return to the old model of presbytery where church leaders came together for encouragement and joint work. In the recent past we have hired Executives to coordinate that work which resulted in less participation of the churches and more unrealistic expectations of what “Presbytery” should provide.
- I learned that we are a presbytery of chapels. One third of our churches have less than a dozen worshipers. Their buildings are the only thing that stands between them and dissolution. People hold on to sacred buildings so long that the building becomes their reason for being. In a sense the building is the church. As a Presbytery we must learn how to support them and encourage them into different ways of being church.
- We made some technical changes to our Presbytery Gatherings. We learned that siitting at tables provided the opportunity for committees to respond to questions and concerns around tables. It also fostered relationship building. We worked to make sure that every presbytery meeting provided resources for local churches around specific themes, like funding, generosity, climate, immigration etc. Because committees have commission authority, the focus of our Gatherings can be strengthening congregations and the bonds among us.
- We are an exceptionally gifted presbytery. There is much we could learn from each other if we could find ways to make time for teaching and sharing. So too denominational resources are significant, and we have not used them effectively.
It was a treat to have pulpit exchanges throughout the year.Cambridge United Presbyterian Church loved having others lead worship and it was a real honor to meet people throughout the presbytery. My favorite times this year were leading in the ordination of Kukjin An and the installation of Jenn Legg. Every time I lead people through the ordination and installation questions, I am humbled by the audacity of our covenant commitments – and delighted that others are as crazy as I am to choose to live within them!
I am deeply thankful for our staff, for Bill, Dan, and Jennifer, and for Michael Burkley and Judy Hartley our new moderator and vice moderator.