Dear Members of Shenango Presbytery,
A new year brings new things for Shenango! As many of you know, we have had a discernment team in place that was charged by the Council to do some groundwork in exploring options for a future relationship with Beaver-Butler presbytery. That team was led by Glenn Hink and included Augie Hurst, Elizabeth Wallace, Dave Esposito, Judy Veon, Tod Custer, and Mark Frailey. After months of working with some folks from Beaver-Butler presbytery and consultant Michelle Snyder, the team recommended that the Council consider moving forward with a next step of discernment.
As outlined in the official recommendation, which was approved by the Council on December 11, the next step involves the creation of a new team, called the Dream Team (not so named because they are the best of the best but because they are charged with the task of dreaming and imagining what a new, merged presbytery might look like). The Dream Team will consist of four members from Shenango and four from Beaver-Butler and will meet with Michelle Snyder over the coming months to imagine something new and further consider the possibility of merger.
Please note that the council’s decision to approve the recommendation of the discernment team and move forward with electing a Dream Team was not a vote to officially merge with Beaver-Butler presbytery. A vote for a merger will only take place after the Dream Team does its work and makes a recommendation to the councils of each presbytery. If a recommendation for merger is approved by both Shenango’s Council and Beaver-Butler’s Council, then a full vote of both presbyteries will be required in order to approve a merger. So, as you can see, there are several important steps for us to discern together before a merger can take place.
As requested, the Council also elected Shenango’s members of the Dream Team at a special meeting on January 7. All of these individuals were elected because they embodied the characteristics that were laid out in the initial recommendation. We have every confidence that these are leaders who can creatively reimagine what presbytery might look like in the 21st century in western Pennsylvania and further help us discern the possibility of merger. The following have been elected:
• Catherine Craley (TE, Trinity)
• Glenn Hink (TE, First, Sharon)
• Augie Hurst (TE, Lebanon)
• A fourth individual (a ruling elder) is currently discerning
The Council also elected Andrea Hall (RE, Hillside) to serve as Project Manager, a position that is not on the Dream Team but will help move the process along by overseeing deadlines, communications, etc.
Now that we are entering this next phase of discernment, we want to hear from you. We want to keep the lines of communication open and make sure that no one feels like they are in the dark. We need your help in making that happen. Please be honest about what you need from us and make every effort to make yourself available when there are times for informal or formal discussion.
To that end, there are two times in the immediate future that we have slated for discussion.
• The first is Saturday, January 19 at the Elder-Deacon Training Event at Northmintster at 10:00 am. Augie Hurst (as well as others) will be present to lead a simple session answering questions and giving basic information.
• The second is Wednesday, January 23 at 10:00 am at the Confluence in New Castle. At this time, pastors are welcome to join members of the Dream Team and Council for a Fireside Chat to hear more about what’s next and offer thoughts or concerns.
There will also be times when Shenango and Beaver-Butler folks can mingle. Those times include: March 17 (Beaver-Butler’s version of LeaderFest), March 18-19 (Shenango’s Pastors’ Retreat), and May 19 (Shenango’s LeaderFest).
There are many questions to be answered, and we certainly do not have all of the answers yet. Overall, I sense from the Council an excitement about the future, whatever it may hold. I have also been impressed by the lack of anxiety – meetings feel calm, as though there is a strong trust that God will provide clear answers in due time. I also believe that our Council is 100% committed to making choices that are best for our congregations. I don’t sense that anyone on Council is “sold” one way or the other. All seem to be open to discerning where the Spirit is leading.
So, please be in prayer for our presbytery. Pray for the Dream Team and Michelle Snyder. Pray for our Council, staff, and other leaders. We covet these prayers and are confident that they will be answered according to God’s will.
As we enter these next several months of transition, our leadership structure will remain as it has since Ralph’s departure. Bill Crooks and the COM are available for any pastoral/congregational needs. Matt Camlin is available as Stated Clerk. Tod Custer is our Moderator, Jeff Black is Vice Moderator, and Andrea Hall moderates the Council. Augie Hurst also serves on the Steering Team. Our staff (Autumn Imhoff and Shari Getway) is an incredible resource. We are grateful to God that we are well-equipped with capable leaders at this time.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for the ministry that you are doing here in Shenango!
Rev. Tod Custer