Networking isn’t a new term, but it is an important practice. Through networking people with people, presbyteries with presbyteries, projects with projects, the Synod community uses the power of gathering to encourage, enable and be challenged together in the Christ’s mandated mission to tell our stories of grace and transformation. The gospel community of the Synod of the Northeast is comprised of over 180,000 members, gathered in over 1,100 congregations and scores of fellowships, new worshipping communities and new church developments, related to each other in 22 presbyteries. As I have sat with many of our leaders and members over this past year and a bit, I have been amazed at the stories that I have heard. I have begun knitting together people with similar stories into what we call now a Synod Network. The intentional networking of these leaders and their stories throughout our regional community has been an important part of our joint aim to make the Synod an unencumbered space for missional innovation, witness renewal, and radical welcome.
The Synod is committed, and continues to grow in this project of networking as a space for open engagement in two forms:
1) We gather and tell stories – The depth, breadth and diversity of our synod community has powerful stories of where we have been, how we are engaging the challenges of our time and space, and what we feel God is leading us to be and do as gospel witnesses. All of those stories are building blocks that can be of service, of challenge, and of encouragement to many within our regional gospel community and elsewhere.
One of those stories is that of leaders in the Boston Presbytery, and their passion with young adult leadership formation. Knowing they each shared this passion, a group of leaders from multiple contexts of mission and service got together to dream about a presbytery-wide initiative. Three years later, Boston Presbytery hosts a Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) site that focuses on food justice issues. During this pilot time they have impacted the lives of 10 young adult persons from throughout the PCUSA, the ministries of 5 congregations, and the lives of a whole presbytery community. This story is currently being tethered to our new YAV site hosted by New York City Presbytery, and also to hunger and food justice programs being led by leaders, congregations and presbyteries throughout the Synod. One story of service continues to cause ripple effects of encouragement in our larger community.
2) We are building Networks – Coming together intentionally – for fellowship, for worship, and for joint learning, is a key way to live into the New Way Forward. Often, gathering folks with common interests and passions in mission and ministry have turned a more formal Synod Network.
What does this mean? What exactly is a Network? A Synod Network is our official initiative to gather people around their common passion, and to seek ways to support and strengthen each other. To date we have a Prison Ministry Network, a Network of COMs in Northern New York, a Network for emerging ministries called LiveWire, a Mediation Network and a Coaching Network. There are many others in the pipeline.
In my travels throughout the Synod I listen to people’s stories and connect people who would be blessed to know each other with each other. Beyond putting a face to a name, I connect a community which holds a particular passion with other communities that hold similar passions.
After connecting stories, I gauge with these now connected passionate leaders if there is a need or a desire to meet further. If so, I coordinate a meet up, either face to face or virtually. This intentional conversation then may lead to the formation of a Synod Network – a space within the Synod in which passionate leaders and communities can bind together in a commitment to each other and their gospel commitment to grow together, learn together, and seek resources that can bless and move their shared mission and ministry forward.
Through these networks, blessed and enabled by the work of the Synod’s Mission and Ministries Commission, the Synod Commission (on behalf of the Synod community) commits to walk alongside them, resourcing them in every way possible. Resourcing might include funding. But more often than not, resourcing is also support to widely share stories and initiatives throughout the Synod community and the wider Church. We offer our administrative and missional support already found in Synod staffing, presbytery relationships, and other structures.
As we continue to live into these renewed ways of being a larger gathering of presbyteries and congregations, know that each of our stories is, perhaps, the most valuable gift we can share with each other.
Should you have any question about networking in the Synod of the Northeast or a passion that you would like to share with others in the Synod through the creation of a Synod Network, please, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, fb.com/pstamaury or on twitter @pstamaury.
Also! If you have not done so already, I invite you to connect with the many stories being told by joining our elist at synodne.org or by contacting us through at email@example.com.