This Network was birthed at the 2016 Synod Assembly during the discussion of the commissioner's resolution to divest from fossil fuels. The discussion took us beyond divestment to how to be the church in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. The discussion led to an overwhelming vote for divestment. The Holy Spirit was alive and moving among us at that assembly.
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.
The Synod Commission, in its September meeting, approved the formation of two new networks: The Immigration Action Network and the New Beginnings Network.
For me, the joy is seeing how even seemingly insignificant offers of hospitality are deeply significant for people who simply want to be welcomed home, who have done their time and who deserve to be reintegrated into the community in a loving and respectful way. A little goes a long way. Think of a person who’s just getting out of prison. Think of what they need: that first set of clothes, first set of clean underwear, a birth certificate, a government-issued ID, a safe place to live, trauma resources, job interview training.
“The Prison Ministry Network is our challenge to the faith communities to live out the gospel in very specific ways and to stand in the gap,” says Shaw, who believes that hope relies on the volunteer power of communities coming together. “More than ever, our churches are needed.”
After using the April Synod Mission and Ministries meeting for a retreat in which we reflected upon the synod’s foundational text Isaiah 43:19, the Commission went back to business the last weekend in June. We began with the unveiling of our new synod video, which in many ways is an expression of the Isaiah text. If you haven’t had the chance yet to see our new website or the video, go take a look and see the new things we are doing.
Our first retreat for the Northern NY Committee On Ministry Network was a great success. We met in Albany, NY over the weekend of May 20th. We had participants from all five of the presbyteries in the network (Albany, Cayuga-Syracuse, Susquehanna Valley, Northern New York and Utica), and some guests from other presbyteries close by as well. It was such a benefit to be in the same physical space as one another and to put faces and stories to our ministry settings.
Are you a person with the rare but necessary gift to walk alongside people in conflict? Do you want to hone that gift and use it in the church? If so, you might be called to serve as a Mediator in your presbytery or within the Synod of the Northeast. We have created a Mediation Network that can provide Mediators to walk alongside churches or groups and committees in presbyteries to help solve conflicts before they reach the level of a remedial complaint. Our goal is reconciliation in Christ by mutual agreement. Matthew 5:25 and the Rules of Discipline in the Book of Order urge us to do everything we can to settle our differences, even on the way to court. Many people who have filed remedial complaints have said they did so because no one heard them. Our job is to hear all parties so that those of us in disputes don't become so angry that we are locked into a position, unable to provide space to hear God's voice.
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.