With affirmative grace more than 150 Corresponding Members, Commissioners, Synod Officers, YAADS, Guests, Observers and Synod Staff gathered at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany, New York to conduct the business of the Synod over two days. Positive high energy and good spirits dominated the events. Below are but a few of the highlights and significant moments.
* Prior to opening worship, Thia Reggio, Teaching Elder and Synod Assembly Moderator, welcomed the Westminster Presbyterian Church Drum Circle to compliment worship. Drummers attracted enthusiastic attention and sustained interest throughout the service. Portions of the Belhar Confession were used in worship.
* Teaching Elder and Synod Leader Harold Delhagen read Isaiah 43:19 in his opening remarks. Referring to numerous Synod changes, he said Synod is doing new things in new ways, challenging Presbyteries and Congregations to “dare to be innovative!” Everyone was encouraged to explore the new Synod of the Northeast website at www.synodne.org for Network updates, grants, Work Group reports, scholarships, schedules and more.
* Representing 22 Presbyteries the body voted to divest from fossil fuels going forward. Several proponents spoke in favor of the action sharing that their churches and Presbyteries had previously taken the same steps. A Network was created at the Assembly for continued study and climate change issues.
* A 2017 budget review informed the Assembly that the Synod proposed per capita is $4.10. The item was voted on and passed. The Administrative Workgroup report shared that they vigilantly watch the market for fluctuation, monitor expenses for cost containment and ask for transparency at all levels. The 2017 budget includes new fundraising initiatives which have demonstrated success to date.
* The Robert L. Washington Scholars & Fellows Program was announced intended to cultivate executive leadership training. Dr. Donald Shriver, Past President Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, spoke to the significance of Robert Washington’s contributions, achievements and service. Immediate family was present for the program launch.
* Throughout the two days one could not help but recognize the 10 dedicated, enthusiastic and determined Youth Advisory Delegate Commissioners. They were given Advisory Vote status due to a By-laws change punctuating the emphasis Synod is placing on attracting, involving, engaging and training youth and young adult leadership. Synod leadership advised Presbyteries and Congregations – “take notice.” Synod looks to the next generation to “lead, energize, fertilize and staff the future.”
* Fireside chat style, Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director of Presbyterian Mission Agency, shared the work of rebuilding mission. While Presbyterian mission is rich, healthy and life giving, much remains to be done. He Invited everyone to go to www.presbyterianmission.org and highlighted the Keeping the Faith Video for more.
* A pre-assembly event led by Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training was well received by the 110 people who were able to take advantage. Experiences and impressions of participants filtered into many group discussions throughout the two days. Commissioners shared work on diversity in their home congregation or Presbytery. We heard of local church action related to Black Lives Matter. Future replication of the anti-racism organizing and training can be expected throughout the Presbytery.
* If pressed to lift up a personal high point of the Assembly, it would have to be hearing Teaching Elder Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of PC(USA) who deliver the sermon during closing worship. Humble, powerful, passionate, commanding, humorous and engaging, Rev. Dr. Nelson reminded us that God is our advocate. “We have God on our side. Fear stops faith and love. To get over fear we need faith and love. Religion is an institution. Major institutions in our country are undergoing radical change – education, hospitals, churches, use of technology, new work arrangements. Get up off your blessed assurance and do something!” Nelson advised.
Judy is a “life long Presbyterian” and has served as an Elder since 1971. She is currently a member at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany and most recently served as an Albany Presbytery Commissioner to the 2016 Synod Assembly.