Shortly after I arrived here in California, Steve Yamaguchi invited me to be part of the Generative Catalyst Team (GCT). After looking up the terms of that auspicious title in the dictionary, I said “Yes!” I thought I would jump into a team that was running full speed, but discovered quickly that, although the GCT had been adopted in theory a couple of years prior, the GCT itself had never been formed or activated at that point. It was not a matter of neglect or a lack of need. It was mostly because the discernment and dismissal processes left so many things in flux.
Happily, the GCT has begun meeting and has begun addressing our role in the presbytery. As I understand it, we are called to sit in the “balcony” in order to play a two-fold function. First, we sit in the balcony in order to take the “large view,” to see what kind of synergy all the moving parts of the presbytery are creating when viewed together. This view is an analytical function that requires an angle of vision that is hard to see from down inside of one of the moving parts. It also requires us to explore tools and processes that can gather a “thick description” of our presbytery. Second, we sit in the balcony to look off and take the “long view” of where God is leading us in the world. This view is a synthetic function, merging who we are, who we are called to be, and what God is doing in our contextual communities in order to respond faithfully. Again, this kind of vision is hard to see when one is meeting with a dispirited session or trying to balance a budget.
While our role as a GCT requires patience and an enormous capacity for listening, two things have already emerged in our work that are capturing our focus right now. I am saying “we” but accept that these are my ways of reflecting our work thus far. I’m speaking as a part of, but not on behalf of, the GCT for now, since these are ongoing conversations that we are having.
1. We know that our presbytery has been wounded by the discernment and dismissal processes. It is dispiriting to see friends and colleagues depart in any circumstance, much less when words are shared that try to justify departure and cannot help but feel like accusations. As we view the complex of emotions that we all feel now, the GCT is asking, “How is God calling us to be present with one another in such a time as this?” In response, and after soliciting wisdom from the SCT the Council, and the Trustees, we are engaging in a process of “deep listening,” where we have invited each local session to reflect on three questions, to send two or more delegates to some regional gatherings, and to share with one another and the GCT their joys and challenges. We will hold the gatherings in March and study the responses in April and May in order to present a report to the Council in June. We will also hold two “Open Space” meetings at the September presbytery meeting to share what we have heard.
2. We know that faithfulness calls us not to remain in our wounds, but to grow through them. I heard someone say recently, “I don’t preach from my wounds, but I always preach from my scars.” Our second function is to ask, “Where is God leading us when these wounds have begun to heal?” We suspect that the amount of energy we have spent in focusing on our presbytery – as opposed to the amount of energy we could have spent in focusing on strengthening our churches and imagining new ventures in missional living – should be reversed. What if 80% of the presbytery’s synergy were directed toward strengthening existing churches and empowering new missional opportunities, with the other 20% on internal support and administration? Isn’t that the kind of presbytery we all dream of?
It is my hope that everyone who serves on a presbytery team, a local church session, or a local church committee finds the joy of serving out of our scars. The good news of the gospel is that the Head of the Church invites us to touch his hands, reach in his side, touch his scars, and believe.