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.
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.”
On November 13 and 14, Presbytery Moderators from around the Synod of the Northeast gathered in Albany to engage in conversations around the New Way Forward. Just two weeks before, the Synod had held its first Come to the Table event-a biennial gathering that will alternate with our Synod Assembly as a way of bringing the whole regional community together each year. At Come to the Table, we explored three topics: Wilderness, Witness and Welcome in our life together as a regional body in the PC(USA) in the Northeast. At the moderator's gathering, we used these topics to explore the life of our presbyteries in their particular contexts.
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo received the Katherine Hawes Award, which recognizes ministries that engage youth in all areas of the church’s mission, extending beyond the church into the community and the world. The youth fundraise all year for an annual mission trip to Hartford, Maine, where they assist the community in preparing for winter. The youth bunk and worship daily with the Hartford Community Church. The Hartford church then sends their youth group to reciprocate in the Buffalo community. A bond was formed between two communities that dwell 600 miles apart but only inches apart in mission.