Monday, December 05, 2005

Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting at Bakerstown: 4. Welcoming and inclusion

PPT slide reading "Welcome to Pittsburgh Presbytery"I was very impressed by the host church's hospitality from the moment I arrived at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown for the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on December 1, 2005.

The host church had mobilized an army of volunteers guiding us to parking spaces, welcoming us into the building, showing us where to register, and helping us find our way around the building. The Presbytery staff also did their part to create a welcoming atmosphere for those of us who would be involved in the work of the meeting. This welcoming ministry is an important way in which we communicate to one another that God in Christ has welcomed us.

Red Belt logoWhen host pastor the Rev. Theodore Martin formally welcomed the Presbytery during the meeting, he described the history of the congregation and acknowledged that the location was practically the frontier when the church was started. He also acknowledged the distance that many had traveled from across the Presbytery. Making reference to the church's proximity to the Red Belt, the outermost of the "Wayfinder" system of belts in Pittsburgh, he expressed the hope that the embrace of the Red Belt would help us experience God's welcome.

The Presbytery had a number of important discussions that revolved around the significance of this welcome for our fellowship with one another.

God welcomes us into fellowship and service alongside one another. In this meeting we recognized and celebrated a number of people whom God is calling into new forms of ministry.

The Presbytery elected the Rev. Denise Mason as our Senior Vice-Moderator. Rev. Mason is the pastor of the Community of Reconciliation, a congregation that belongs to five denominations: American Baptist Churches, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church. The packet for the Presbytery meeting included her c.v. that showed her many qualifications including her previous professional experience as a minister in congregations of the United Church of Christ, as well as on that denomination's national staff. How God has blessed us by bringing such a gifted person into our midst through this ecumenical congregation!

The Rev. Jay W. LewisThe Stated Clerk Nominating Committee presented the Rev. Jay Warren Lewis as its candidate for Stated Clerk for a three year term. Jay is an accomplished attorney who received an M.Div. degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1996. In addition to his service to congregations he has been active in the PCUSA at the presbytery and synod levels. In person he is quite affable, and I'm looking forward to his service among us. After a long search God has blessed us with a colleague/servant/leader to build on the legacy John Matta left behind.

The Presbytery also expressed its gratitude to Robert Smith who has served capably as the acting stated clerk. Given the number of times he was asked to go to the microphone during this meeting the Presbytery probably owes him a pair of running shoes.

The Presbytery examined and approved Chad Collins for ordination so that he may serve the Valley View Presbyterian Church. His ordination is scheduled for January 29, 2006 at Valley View. We had a foretaste during his examination of the theological voice he will add to our conversations. When the Presbytery next meets he will be able to speak among us as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.

As part of the Committee on Ministry report Vera White asked William Carl (the new President of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Jay Lewis, Chad Collins, and Paul Becker (interim pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown) to come forward for a welcoming and commissioning prayer.

All of this welcoming was good, and helped at least this presbyter to experience many of the ways in which God welcomes us into the wonder of what God is doing in the world.

However, there was a point late in the meeting when a motion to waive the normal procedure for electing commissioners to the General Assembly failed after a lengthy discussion. Some of the ministers and elders present appeared to feel that there was a way in which the Rev. Denise Mason (mentioned above) was not a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and therefore lacked a "stake" in the PCUSA. It was reported that she has been enrolled as a member, which leads me to feel that we all need some help in understanding the significance of actions of the Presbytery at the time we take them. Our denomination has a long history of valuing the parity of elders and ministers; we still have some work to do on recognizing the parity of ministers who have followed different routes into membership in the PCUSA.

My other articles on this meeting: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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