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.
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…
En los meses después que los vientos ensordecedores dejaron de gritar y las aguas retrocedieron sobre la isla de Puerto Rico, los presbiterianos/as han respondido al llamado de ayuda de los que fueron afectados. Un asombroso cuarenta porciento de los habitantes de la isla todavía carecen de electricidad, acceso a agua limpia y suficiente comida.
A pesar de los bloqueos burocráticos (y aparente apatía) por parte de nuestra nación, las congregaciones y presbiterios en todo el noreste han puesto su fe en acción.
In the months since the winds stopped howling and the waters receded over the island of Puerto Rico, Presbyterians have responded to the plight of those who have been affected, an astonishing 40% of whom still don’t have power, and an appalling number who still lack access to clean water and sufficient food.
In spite of bureaucratic roadblocks (and seeming apathy) on the part of our nation, congregations and presbyteries throughout the Northeast have put their faith into action.
Our Synod community is deeply blessed with incredible diversity. With this gift comes a profound responsibility to be sure that the gift of these voices is heard and reflected within the leadership of our governance structures. The Robert L. Washington Scholars Program is intended to lift up, support, and equip a diversity of leaders to serve our mid-councils and other areas of leadership.
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.
We also investigated the important role that our own complicity in systems of oppression present, and the need for majority-white communities in mainline congregations to engage in significant pre-discernment and power analysis before beginning Sanctuary in all its forms. Communities who are directly affected by policing, anti-immigrant, religious and racial bias need to be given primary voice in all conversations and actions we engage as people of faith.