Faster, Higher, Stronger
The opening ceremony of the Olympics, winter or summer, always brings me great cheer. I love seeing athletes from all over the world joining together on a single stage. For me, it is a vision of what God wants for humanity, metaphorically speaking. When we bring our best to each other, we become “faster, higher, stronger,” as the Olympic motto says.
Of course, Christ’s disciples don’t make each other better through athletic competition but through cooperation, partnership, and mutual encouragement. As Mother Teresa once said, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”
Here are some ways we are making each other better in 2022.
There are things we do as Presbyterians because of our history and calling that are truly praiseworthy. A few of them are the way we think about God, our connectional nature, and how we share leadership. The first part of this year has been filled with ample opportunities to grow deeper in each of these.
- In early January, over eighty Ruling Elders and Deacons gathered by Zoom to be trained for their respective ministries, and follow-up sessions are being planned in multiple congregations.
- Over thirty pastors are gathering today for a much needed 42-hour retreat. The theme couldn’t be timelier: “How God Surprises and Remakes the Church: Inspiration for Pastors During and After a Pandemic.” Please pray for our pastors as they have carried a heavy load during this pandemic. They need boundless wisdom and resilience to shepherd our congregations “as God remakes the church.”
- We can also celebrate the thirty-four participants of this year’s Missional and Pioneer Leader Training coordinated by Alfredo Delgado, as well as David Beary’s brilliant weekly study on the Confessions of the church. If you haven’t participated in either of these, you can sign up for any session individually and “kick the tires.” You will be richly blessed by doing so.
Training opportunities like these provide a solid foundation for our witness to Christ and help leaders lead with confidence, competence, and courage.
Discerning the Future
Another way we make each other better is through communal discernment. We all sense that the pandemic is a watershed moment for the church. We have already begun dividing time with phrases like, “Oh, that’s the way we worshiped before COVID” and “Since COVID began, our small groups are meeting online.”
So many practices have changed for the church, it makes one’s head spin — and it is hard to tell exactly how COVID will affect congregational life in the long run. What we do know is that some congregations have been impacted far more than others, especially those who were struggling with financial issues before the pandemic began.
It is providential, therefore, that the Strategic Task Group, charged with providing recommendations to Council for our presbytery’s next mission design, is hard at work delineating the “nice-to-haves” from “must-haves” when it comes to how our presbytery supports congregations.
As it does, it is staying in close communications with the Trustees and Council so that strategies it eventually recommends (hopefully in 2022!) will be broadly owned by congregations of all shapes and sizes. The creative challenge, of course, will be to empower a lasting partnership where presbytery and congregations see themselves as an organic whole and every member is honored equally.
Year of Encouragement
Last month, I dubbed 2022 as the “Year of Encouragement.” I explained that the Greek word for “encourage” (Gk. parakaleó) means “to call alongside” and is a close relative to the word used for the “Holy Spirit” (Gk. parakletos).
Since then, I reflected on something fun. The English word “encourage” means “to give support, confidence, or hope to someone so they can do something or continue to do something.” The word literally has “courage” embedded in it. As we face the uncertainties of our time, I pray that we learn new and meaningful ways to “give courage” to each other so that when someone encounters us, they run life’s course “faster, higher, and stronger” than ever before.
Mother Teresa was right. “Together, we can do great things.”
With you on the journey,
Tom Cramer, Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision & Mission