My column this month covers some of our summer activity: Council conversations with Sessions; congregation-to-congregation networking; the recent boundaries training; and September’s upcoming Presbytery meeting.
Conversations with Sessions:
In May your Sessions received an invitation from the Presbytery Council. We wanted to hear how your congregations are doing, what your hopes and concerns are, and how we can pray for you.
Council members have as of this writing talked with about half of your sessions. We will have a lot of data to review from all your contributions, and we hope to collect more. But in the meantime, here are some of the key themes that caught my attention:
- You are grateful for the hard work your pastors have pursued since the beginning of the pandemic, in order to hold the church together.
- You have done your own hard work as session members.
- You are much closer to each other now—with each other and with your pastors—even though you spent a long time physically separated. Your work to hold the church together has bonded you, and you are now excited to be together again.
- You and your pastors are weary. You are concerned for your pastors’ welfare.
I am grateful for the love I see. May God give you the endurance you need to continue.
(Oh—and if your Session hasn’t yet invited us for a Council visit, we’d love to hear from you. Please email Carol Bridgeman to schedule a time.)
In the Council interviews, another comment came up—this one in response to the Presbytery’s relationship with its congregations. Session members expressed an interest in easy ways to communicate across congregations about common interests and concerns: tools for online worship, for instance; or good ideas for deacons or mission elders; or challenges faced by business administrators and clerks of session.
To address these kinds of interests, the Presbytery staff has begun setting up “Google Groups” tailored to specific topics or congregational roles. So far, we have groups for clerks of session, business managers, and deacon moderators. We anticipate other groups being of benefit as well.
If you’re in a particular role, therefore, and would like to be part of such an ongoing conversation, please email Carol Bridgeman with your contact information and what you have in mind. We won’t guarantee a group for everyone that asks—after all, it wouldn’t be much fun for you if you’re the only one in the group—but we want this tool to serve as many kinds of people as possible.
Thank you for your remarkable participation rate—and your engagement. Nearly 70 of you registered for the Synod-sponsored training that occurred at the beginning of the month. Many of you spoke up in the chat section in the course of the meeting. I sense your commitment to the health of your own ministries, and not just your begrudging willingness to check a box on the “anti-liability” page.
If this event didn’t work for your schedule, you might consider a couple future options.
- The Southern California and Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ routinely holds a boundaries training workshop. One of our pastors recently asked the COM to recognize that workshop as fulfilling the Presbytery’s requirements, and the COM said yes. You can find more information here. (Registration is closed for the upcoming September training, but the Conference indicates that they “will reopen in the near future for the next round of Boundary Awareness Training.” Please check back on that page from time to time if you’d like to participate.)
- LeaderWise, the consulting group that provided the Synod-sponsored workshop in August, will be holding a non-sponsored workshop in November. Since the COM has chosen to recognize certificates from the August event, I would expect them to do the same for the November event. You can find more information here. (Again, be sure to check the dates.)
Finally, a comment regarding California state law: The Synod said that LeaderWise knew about the California sexual harassment requirement and believed that their “training would meet the requirements of the California standard.” As one of our pastors said, “That’s great information”—one less training to attend.
Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, I’m planning to pursue an online sexual harassment prevention and response training (as opposed to a boundaries training) through our insurance company. I want to be sure that I have fulfilled the requirements spelled out in California’s SB1343.
I’m not telling you that you should. Fulfilling SB1343 is a state requirement, not a PLR requirement. Boundaries training is a PLR requirement. I’m only telling you what I will do. (Two more hours won’t kill me. Your mileage may vary.)
September Presbytery Meeting:
And last: a heads-up on our hopes for the next Presbytery meeting on Thursday, September 30th. The Presbytery Gathering Team wants to meet three goals:
- We want to lay the foundation for a fully in-person meeting in November.
- If COVID doesn’t allow us to gather safely in person in November, we want to accomplish the first step toward making our future electronic meetings official.
- We want the Presbytery to keep up with all its normal business.
To that end, the Presbytery Gathering Team has proposed, and the Council has approved, dividing the meeting into two parts. Details await final Council approval, but we expect the day to look like this:
The first part will be in person at 4:00 PM. We will meet on the back patio and parking lot at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Costa Mesa. The church will be open earlier if you would like to reconnect with old friends and hear how the pandemic has gone for them (or just to argue about sports, if you prefer).
While we are gathered formally, we will take two steps: (a) ratify all actions taken by the Presbytery and its subordinate bodies during virtual-electronic meetings since the beginning of the pandemic, and (b) hold a first reading of Standing Rules amendments that would eventually make virtual-electronic meetings official. For this to succeed, we will need at least 61 commissioners present for a quorum. I covet your attendance.
We expect this first part to end before 4:45 PM. We will then adjourn to our homes, churches, or workplaces—wherever you go to Zoom.
The second part of the meeting will begin at 7:00 PM on Zoom, and will cover all other business. We don’t anticipate any long conversations, so we should be done before 9:00 PM.
I don’t know how long we will need to carry the new burdens that COVID has placed on us. But when I think of you, I find myself thinking of these words:
“God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end…” (Hebrews 6:10-11)
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
May it be so.
Somewhere along the Way—