The 2019 January 25-26 Synod Mission & Ministries Commission meeting began the next two-year term for presbytery representatives. As we said farewell to some representatives at the November 2018 meeting, we welcomed at this meeting people elected for the first time to represent their presbyteries. You can see that the new members bring a wealth of experience, gifts, and talents to the Commission that will enhance the Synod’s work over the next two years.
With the term cycle shift approaching with the new year, at its November 2018 meeting, the Mission & Ministries Commission (M&MC) thanked the Commission members and Synod officers who are rotating off its roles and bid them farewell. We are so grateful for their gifts, their service, and their ministry! We will miss each of them, but know that we will continue to see and hear from them in other contexts across the Synod.
One of the primary responsibilities of a Synod is to serve and care for its member presbyteries. In our New Way Forward, the manner in which this responsibility is carried out has changed significantly. Our values now call us to focus on serving rather than directing, listening rather than telling, and working from as close to our grassroots (congregations) as possible. This work is shaped by careful listening.
Over the more than five years since we have started on this New Way Forward it has become clear that most of our 22 presbyteries are struggling to find new ways to meet their own calling. Every presbytery has experienced shifts in demographics, changes or confusion in what is expected from leaders, as well as loss of membership and financial resources. Almost every presbytery has been engaged in creative experimentation in finding new ways to meet this sea change.
As our Synod Mission Team works among our presbyteries, it became clear that we are at a Kairos moment.
In addition to great fellowship and conversations among Commissioners, Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs), and Observers, the Synod Assembly also had the privilege of welcoming some special guests as well…
The 2018 Synod Assembly was organized by a “worshipful work” approach to our business and conversations. As we moved through the different elements of the meeting, each corresponded with an aspect of the Reformed order of worship, which helped to ground us in our spiritual identity and to remind us of our ultimate purpose of honoring God.
One of the main highlights of the Assembly was a confessional statement that was written and presented by a group of young ministry leaders called “A Confession for Such a Time as This.”
A year ago, the island of Puerto Rico was hit by back-to-back hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which left thousands of people without adequate housing, power, water, food, clothing… Many, of course, were left without hope, and the suicide rate has skyrocketed. But there is hope!
In keeping with the Synod of the Northeast’s initiative on Puerto Rico Partnerships, there are plans underway for two back-to-back relief work opportunities this winter.
One year ago, just weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and other neighboring Caribbean islands, the Synod’s Mission & Ministries Commission decided to set aside funding and time to encourage the congregations and presbyteries of the Synod to consider ways to partner with Puerto Rican Presbyterians in what is still a very long process of recovery. During the 2018 Fall Synod Commission meeting, commission members had the opportunity to engage in some conversation about our regional and church-wide strategies to support Puerto Ricans in this process.
Grace and peace to you from the Synod’s Puerto Rico Partnerships Taskforce (PRPT)!
We are honored to serve you as we seek to reinvigorate our partnerships between the Synod of the Northeast and the people of Puerto Rico.
Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Puerto Rico with the other four members of the PRPT: Crystal Garcia (Monmouth), Leslie Latham (Western New York), Margaret Mitsuyasu (Synod Mission Coordinator), and Amaury Tañón-Santos (Synod Networker). The purpose of our trip was to meet face-to-face with ecclesial leaders from around Puerto Rico, to listen to their stories, and to begin to discern together ways that we can walk alongside our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers in this particularly painful time following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Here are a list of three observations during our brief time with the Presbyterians of Puerto Rico:
I am writing this as a pastoral and prophetic word as one who is called to lead our community in our common witness to proclaim the Gospel in season and out and to encourage our members to raise up their important voice in pursuit of becoming a vital part of the Beloved Community.
For some time now, I have been searching for the best words to express a helpful and coherent response to the dangerous and polarizing rhetoric that has run rampant in our country and culture…