In the midst of an autumn coldsnap, around twenty church leaders who are between the ages of 25-40 gathered in upstate New York at the Silver Bay YMCA Camp & Conference Center for the 2017 Emerging Leaders Gathering. Though the weather was chilly, the community was not!
The Synod of the Northeast is blessed with a strong cohort of younger leaders, and while only a fraction of their number attend the annual Gathering each year, they consistently report that the community it fosters is crucial to their ongoing energy and enthusiasm for ministry.
For example, at the end of this year’s Gathering, one participant commented: “There’s a lot of talk in the larger Church about how the sky is falling these days. But if this is what the future of the Church looks like, I want to be a part of it.”
The intent of the annual gathering is to create a restful and welcoming space that fosters fellowship, renewal, mutual support, idea sharing, and opportunities to dream together.
This year’s gathering, held on November 9-11, was framed by the four practices of the earliest Church, which are named in Acts 2:42 -- the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. Together, the group spent time in worship, study, and play -- around scripture and the confessions, as well as food and games.
For the “apostles’ teaching” aspect of our time together, we explored three confessional statements of the Church and the ways they speak to the realities of our current contexts and challenge us to respond. Our confessional tradition calls us into living dialogue with the wisdom and insight (and flaws) of our Christian siblings across time and/or space. Through them, we are inspired to reflect upon our faith and witness in response to the realities of our own social contexts.
Thus -- mixing together both new and old -- in the framework of the most ancient Christian practices, our Emerging Leaders engaged with the historic confessional tradition by examining the three most recent statements associated with the PC(USA):
With the Brief Statement of Faith, composed and adopted at the time of Presbyterian reunion in the United States (1983), we explored the theme of the Holy Spirit’s action and considered the implications this draws forth from us.
With the Belhar Confession, which was written by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in response to apartheid (1986) and adopted by the PC(USA) in 2016, we examined our calling to community and its accompanying gifts and responsibilities.
And with the new Sarasota Statement (2017), which has not officially been adopted by the denomination but was written to inspire the Church’s response (by a group convened by NEXT Church and the Presbyterian Foundation), we considered the Church’s calling to address institutional imbalances of power and how we can work together and with the communities in our individual contexts to better reflect the beloved community God intended the Church to be.
The 2017 Emerging Leaders Gathering was a time of rich conversation, deep connections, spiritual renewal, and lots of laughter.
We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity and thank the Synod community for making it possible. We hope the energy and enthusiasm we cultivate through our times together and our presence throughout the region will serve the Church and the Synod of the Northeast well.
P.S. Though we apparently did a better job of photographing our fellowship and play times, we promise we did engage in plenty of significant and serious study, discussion, and worship too!