The following was my report to Presbytery on June 22.
– David Dawson
What Kind of Presbytery?
Here’s a little known fact for you: If you attend all five meetings of Shenango Presbytery this year you will have spent fewer hours on Presbytery meetings than if you had attended all of the meetings in any of the other 172 presbyteries in the country. Comforting…but not good enough!
At the April meeting of Presbytery I encouraged you to discuss with your session the meaning of the statistical data distributed: membership, attendance and giving in your church.
We also have to give the same attention to how we are doing as a presbytery. At the beginning of this year we had a very large amount of Presbytery per capita unpaid from 2009. There has historically been $10,000 – 12,000 not paid each year, but this year it was over $20,000. There are a variety of reasons for this. The Budget and Finance Committee made inquiries and, thankfully, a significant amount of the shortfall has been paid and more is expected.
This is just one bit of data that needs to be consider as we look at how we are doing as a presbytery. We need to ask about the meetings of Presbytery. What happens here? Do we do presbytery well and faithfully? Do you leave saying that it was time appropriately spent for the Kingdom? What about the time between meetings?
These are questions being considered by the Steering Committee of Council. That is the committee that “steers” emerging issues through the Council and committees of Presbytery. It includes the moderator, vice moderator, moderator of Council, clerk, a couple elected members of Council and myself. We have decided in the Steering Committee that we need to take a careful look at our situation as a presbytery. We did this ten years ago so it’s time to take stock again of how we are doing.
We will be raising these questions with the Council. We will also include all of you as we think and pray about being 68 faithful churches in Mercer and Lawrence counties. I would encourage your session to spend some time with this question: given the Book of Order, chapter 11, what is needed from Presbytery…those of us gathered in this way five times a year? What do you expect as a session from this covenantal relationship as one of 68 churches?
There are radical changes afoot in American Christianity, including the PC(USA). We in Shenango Presbytery have not felt some of those changes as much as have most other presbyteries. But it is time to reflect on who we are and what God expects of us. I look forward to the conversations that lie ahead.
June 22, 2010