So what happens at a presbytery meeting at which there will not be a contentious debate on one of the perennial issues that polarizes the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?
There were 109 ministers and 103 elders representing 62 churches at the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery on June 1, 2006 at the Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church. They were present in such numbers not to advocate for sides, but to be a community. The vast amount of business that takes place at any presbytery meeting has to do with acknowledging, recognizing, and establishing changes in the community of church leaders. The departure of Dan Merry was far from the only major change that was taking place.
We learned that Elder Robert Smith, who has long served Pittsburgh Presbytery as its Associate Stated Clerk has been elected as the stated clerk of the neighboring Presbytery of Redstone. Stated Clerk Jay Lewis expressed the gratitude of the Pittsburgh Presbytery to Elder Smith for his service.
The stated clerk also led the commissioning service for the crowd who would be the Camp Crestfield staff this summer and the smaller number who will be commissioners to the General Assembly.
Pastor to the Presbytery Jim Mead returned from his sabattical. After Dan Merry returned to him the keys to the executive bathroom, Jim told us a bit about what he had done on sabattical.
A number of the changes involved people preparing for ministry who were received as candidates. They spoke to us about their personal faith, sense of call, and their experiences in forms of ministry. Perhaps in response to a suggestion made at the previous meeting, the Committee on Preparation for Ministry did not ask those being presented to be received as candidates to read a detailed statement of faith, which it requires of those facing the final hurdle called the "oral parts of trial." I appreciated this change because it saved some time in the meeting to be used more effectively elsewhere. The Presbytery voted to receive as candidates: Matthew Haberman (Northminster Presbyterian Church), Patrick Keeley (First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown), and Thomas Moore (Southminster Presbyterian Church). The Presbytery appointed administrative commissions to conduct the services of reception for Matthew Haberman and Thomas Moore, but held the service of reception for Patrick Keeley during the meeting. In my view this was also a good use of time, as it included the whole Presbytery in the experience of a service of reception.
The Presbytery also conducted the oral parts of trial for Eugene Blackwell (Grace Memorial), Barbara Hines (Riverview), and Andrew Ludwig. Each of them read their statement of faith; the Presbytery had opportunities to ask further questions, and then voted to approve their examinations. Eugene Blackwell will be ordained to serve the Bethesda United Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, as temporary supply. Barbara Hines will be the associate pastor of the East Union Presbyterian Church. Andrew Ludwig will serve the Southminster Presbyterian Church as temporary supply.
The Presbytery also approved a call for Jeff Hopson to be the designated pastor of the Waverly United Presbyterian Church.
The Presbytery recognized the honorable retirement of Rev. Dr. Patricia Mason and Rev. Dr. Jean Henderson. As their close colleagues in ministry shared personal reflections, I found myself becoming much more aware of how central all these comings and goings are to the mission of the church. God calls people into service with such a variety of words of encouragement from others, opportunities to help others connect their faith with their own work, or word of mouth that helps people with the right gifts to get connected to people who need to accomplish a specific ministry. The speakers only scratched the surface of the scores of turning points when these new retirees rose to whatever challenge had been set before them, but they told stories that included the same kinds of transitions in ministry that we have been celebrating for people who are at much earlier stages in their careers.
We spent most of the meeting dealing with these comings and goings, but it was all time well-spent in appreciating the mysterious ways in which God works out God's purposes through individual disciples who are all part of one community.
My other articles about this meeting: A B C D