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.
As Moderator of the Synod of the Northeast, my hope was to weave together the stories of each of our presbyteries in ways that would make it more meaningful for us to walk alongside each other in the New Way Forward as our mission calls us to do. We intentionally invited the moderators of each presbytery, and gave them the option to include other conversation partners. We made this choice for two reasons. First, every presbytery has a moderator, while not all currently have an executive presbyter or other staff. Second, we wanted the discussion to have a point of departure other than staff and structure.
We began in worship around our opening meal...opening ourselves to God's presence, confessing whatever barriers to a fruitful experience we had brought with us, reflecting on scripture and offering our particular gifts to God and one another. As we came together as a whole, we began by sharing thoughts about our presbyteries, acknowledging that as a denomination we find ourselves in a "wilderness time" of seeking, of challenges, and of temptations. The initial thoughts were mainly about challenges, from leadership to numbers to the inevitable "per capita" concern.
Throughout the day, we moved through small group discussions and shared our stories of mission, ministry, and service. Before dinner, we took time to tell those stories to the full group. An amazing thing had happened. The Holy Spirit was moving through our conversations and being revealed in the stories of our uniqueness and our common bonds. The spirit of the gathering had shifted from pre-conceived notions of what we mean by "presbytery" to revelatory tales of what God is really doing across the synod.
From here we were able to begin to build partnerships, connections, the basis for networks, and a renewed understanding, as one participant said, that, "We ARE the synod." Truly, we had come to recognize that in search of a New Way Forward, we are the leaders, friends, the colleagues that we had been looking for. We left knowing that God is at work in us in new and exciting ways, and looking forward to continuing conversations and collaborations to God's glory.