Focus on Leadership: Accountability

Even many long-time Presbyterians think that the “ruling” of Ruling Elder means to reign, or to be in charge of. Instead, as it was likely originally intended even of community or royal rulers, to rule is to measure. Ruling elders are called to be good at measuring the mission and work of the church and in our lives, against Scripture, against our reformed theology and teachings, and against the movement of the Spirit discerned in our common prayer.

In order to do this work well, Presbyterians are called to work together, and to be accountable to one another. However, just as “ruling” can get twisted, so can our idea of accountability.

Christians have been instructed how to proceed in areas of conflict, in Matthew 18. Jesus instructs us to go directly to those we may have disagreements with, whether over ideas or behavior, with further steps if resolution cannot be reached. But there are many example where this has been twisted to shut down important conversation, disagreement that is not acrimonious, but rather productive and instructive.

In order to have productive conversations and accountability, leaders in the church are called to:

  • Pray
  • Learn together
  • Pray
  • Name conflicts and tensions that arise
  • Pray
  • Disagree in respect and love
  • Pray
  • Support the decisions of the body
  • Pray

There is a reason we open and close even our business meetings with prayer and worship in the church. We cannot do anything without God’s guidance. Especially not have difficult conversations and face deep conflict together. So, pray, learn, discuss, discern, decide and pray again. Together. This is the accountability we are called to.

Confirmation Resources

If your church has confirmation education, and you are looking for an update to your curriculum, you have probably noticed there are a lot of options out there.

In addition to what you may have used in past years, here are three excellent options you might consider, that have come out, or will come out soon.

Theocademy

Almost two years ago, the Synod of Mid-America introduced a multimedia PC(USA)-specific curriculum. Through games, group activities and conversations, and video presentations that cover both history and Q&A’s with pastors, it covers the basics of Presbyterian theology and structure with both simplicity and depth. Even difficult concepts are accessible in this 17-lesson curriculum. And, it’s very affordable, with free printed materials accompanying the DVD and online options for the video portion.

The confirmation curriculum is part of the larger Theocademy offerings that include elder and deacon training and new member lessons, lessons from the Old and New Testament and additional conversations on reformed theology – all available at their website.

Colaborate

Colaborate is the latest Presbyterian-specific offering from Sparkhouse, the curriculum division of 1517 Media (formerly Augsburg Fortress). Sparkhouse is another solid reformed option, arising from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). All of their curriculum, like Theocademy, is multimedia – integrating in-depth video presentations and open-ended, deep discussion questions and activities. Colaborate was developed with Presbyterian pastors and educators, so it is not just reformed, but designed specifically for Presbyterian confirmation needs.

The curriculum is so new it isn’t even out, but it will be available on September 12, 2017. You can look at the overview, a sample lesson and pre-order here. Check out our July newsletters for a discount code, available to all who order before August 15, 2017.

Big God. Big Questions.

Available from the PC(USA) Store in Fall 2018, being developed through research being done by The Confirmation Project and written by PC(USA) pastors. Read up on the work of The Confirmation Project, and keep an eye out for announcements about pre-ordering this curriculum for next fall. Past confirmation and other current curriculum is available at the PC(USA) Store.

 

Reformation Resources

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation kicked off by Martin Luther on October 31, 2017. Throughout the year people are celebrating throughout the world and in many different denominations that have arisen from this reformed view of Christian practice. We wanted to connect you with some resources available to learn about, talk about and celebrate the Reformation for yourself, and with your congregations.

  • The Presbyterian Historical Society has some wonderful reading on the foundations of the Reformed Protestant movement and Presbyterianism as well as past Reformation Sunday resources that are great for sharing with classes or congregations.
  • The PC(USA) has a trio of resources created specifically with the 500th anniversary in mind, for all ages. This Presbyterian Mission Agency article runs through the resources and has links for ordering them.
  • The largest United States-based Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which arose directly from Martin Luther’s teachings, has a whole site dedicated to Reformation 500th anniversary resources and events happening throughout the year here and around the world.
  • Newark Presbytery will be celebrating together in November. Save the date for our Reformation celebration on November 11, 2017, at Montclair State University.

Enjoy these resources, and let us know what your congregation is doing to celebrate this remarkable milestone in our history!

Focus on Leadership: Celebration

We are surrounded by stories of challenge, both inside and outside the church. It can seem like all of our passion, care and work are producing less and less. Our denomination (and most Christian denominations in the United States) is shrinking at a time when less people understand concepts of stewardship, membership and leadership, which means less resources and people to do what we want to do. This can be very disheartening as we follow Jesus in the best ways we know how.

However, we know that God is always at work, through us in our faith and our faithful actions, growing the kingdom of God in all places and times and people. We are also a church that proclaims to be “reformed always to be reformed according to the Word of God.”[1] We recognize that the ways we have done things, including the shape and makeup of the church may not look tomorrow the way they looked yesterday or today.

And so we look for those kingdom seeds, those celebrations among the challenges. Because that is where God is. God is also in the challenges, encouraging us to move and change and look for the many ways God is at work. So don’t forget to look for celebrations in the challenging situations, too.

As leaders, this is our call. Not to run away from the difficult conversations or issues, but face them with hearts full of joy. Joyful lives and joyful leadership do not mean that we will not ever feel frustrated, angry or sad about things that are happening to or around us.

We can mourn the loss of members due to death or disagreements. We can grieve as we remember programs and events in the past that brought the church together, but no longer does so. Joy does not mean that we are simply happy and ignore all that brings pain. Joy instead is rooted in the hope given to us by God. The hope that no matter what happens, God is with us and God is still at work, renewing and transforming us and the Body of Christ.

So look for the celebrations. Look for the places where your ministries have found new ways to gather, worship, serve, fellowship and use space (or lack of space). Where is your passion in following Jesus Christ meeting some of those challenging times? Who is bringing joy into your community?

They don’t have to be huge, miraculous events. Remember, Jesus started with 12 disciples, and look at how the church continues to grow today. Outside of the United States, the church is growing, especially in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. How can we connect to our Christian family in those places, and as they immigrate into our communities? How can we celebrate together?

Don’t forget, we want to hear about all the places God is at work in and around you. So share the good news! With your communities, and with us, so we can all celebrate together. We even have a form where you can submit the stories – they can be short or long, and you can add pictures, too. Let us celebrate together!

_______

[1] PC(USA) Book of Order, F-2.02

Focus on Leadership: Rest

In our leadership posts over the last year we’ve talked about the importance of Sabbath, taking care of yourself, and taking care of others – paying attention to the things causing stress and anxiety, and taking a breath before diving in. Implicit among these thoughts is the idea of getting the proper amount of rest, but we wanted to take some time to talk about sufficient rest more specifically.

In North America, summers mean longer days of natural light and often drastically different schedules, even for those who work full time year round. Vacations, social events, vacation Bible school, camps and retreats – all of these can add both opportunities for increased rest and opportunities to upturn your routine, so it’s a great time of year to talk about proper rest.

Americans in the United States are simply not getting enough sleep. And when we are awake, we often do not take enough time to just rest – we don’t take enough breaks, vacation time or regular days off. Too many of us feel that if we are not being “productive” we are wasting time.

But if we do not get enough down time, rest time and sleep, our productivity is often for naught. We are less productive, less effective and less creative. Our brains and our whole bodies need time away from productivity. Sleeping for 7-8 hours a night (for adults – school age children and teens need 9-10 hours of sleep per day) helps our bodies slow down and do important healing work necessary for good health.

Taking time away from the tasks in front of us allows us time to let our minds wander. Though it may seem unproductive, our brains tend to continue to work on problems and tasks, making connections we may not make when we are intentionally trying to seek solutions.

God created us in God’s image. Even God rested after creation was complete, and we cannot be whole creations without that rest.

As we take care of ourselves, as we care and support others, as we seek to keep Sabbath as holy, set-apart time, ask yourself, am I getting enough rest? Are my friends, family, pastors, leaders, colleagues, getting enough rest? How can we help each other lessen our anxieties about productivity and take the time we need to sleep, to daydream, to not spend every waking moment being busy?

Without rest we cannot be whole people, we cannot use our full energy and creativity, and we will spend all our time in the now, without a true connection to or hope for our past and our future.

Focus on Leadership: Pilgrimage

The language of journey is prevalent in the church. Many would even say it is overused. However, we haven’t really come up with a good alternative, and there’s probably a good reason for that. Our faith life really is a journey or pilgrimage, without a specific endpoint.

The whole point of our faith life is about the experiences and relationships that happen along the way. There will be significant milestones, obstacles and achievements, places in the road that are smooth and flat, and places where faith is like climbing a steep, narrow mountain path littered with boulders. And, like most significant journeys, there is time for reflection, frustration and growth.

Throughout Christian history there has been a tradition of physical pilgrimages both to honor holy places and to represent our faith life through a literal journey. Some of the major pilgrimages include Jerusalem, Camino de Santiago and Canterbury (just in case you forgot why those people were traveling together in the Canterbury Tales you read in English class). There are many other holy sites with formal and informal pilgrimage traditions.

But, why pilgrimage? Why actual walking when now we can get anywhere we want by car, train or airplane? We could join pilgrims on a bus tour, and hit multiple pilgrimage sites in one day in some parts of Europe and the Middle East.

Sometimes we just need to slow down.

We need time to walk and think, alone, or with like-minded companions. And when we talk about like-minded companions, we aren’t talking about people who agree with you politically or share the same education, socio-economic level or culture. Rather, we are thinking of people who too understand their faith as a journey, or life as a journey, as experiences like the Camino de Santiago is being undertaken by many people of no or ambiguous faith experiences and understanding. (Books like Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage have made the Camino more widely known and popular.)

Spending time with people who may not be like you in any other way than being willing to walk together can give you the time to get to know each other, and definitely to see each other in new ways. You will see each other at your best and your worst. You will find yourself challenged in ways you did imagine and in ways you never imagined. And even if that person you are walking with and getting to know is yourself alone, taking time, taking steps, striving for a goal that is both the end of the journey and simply a stop on the way – these are all ways to examine your faith, to find out how you will respond faithfully to a whole host of people and situations, to strip away all pretense and get to the center of your joys and your struggles.

If you have an opportunity to do one of the great pilgrimages – Jerusalem, Santiago, Iona, Taizé, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Fe – do it. But even if you are not able to go on one of these larger trips, think of a place that is holy to you. Design a walk (as you are able) that includes that space in the walk itself, or as the destination. Take your time. Don’t rush. Think about where you have been, and where you are (or might be) going. If you are not physically mobile in the same ways, what might a pilgrimage journey look like for you? On your own, or with friends. [insert story about guy who was carried by friends around Europe]

Don’t expect all of your questions to be answered. A pilgrim walk is just another milepost along the way of our longer walk of faith. Some lessons might be gained immediately, while others will come over time, as you can see in the blog post of this recent pilgrim. Some you may wrestle with the rest of your life.

Focus on Leadership: Reconciliation

One of the most difficult things in our human existence is admitting when we’ve been wrong. This is especially difficult if we are leaders and our organization is wrong, and perhaps has been for a long while.

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution, we affirm, “‘The church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God’ in the power of the Spirit.” (Book of Order, F-2.02). This means we are called to constantly and consistently examine ourselves and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we find ourselves being guided to change, it is imperative that we follow the Spirit.

The Presbyterian Church has some deep wounds to heal over racism in the church, throughout the country. The only way we will be able to begin to address those wrongs is through some difficult examination, discussion and practice. But we have some good examples of places to start.

Our neighbor, the Presbytery of New Brunswick, along with the Synod of the Northeast, publicly apologized to and forgave the debt of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church incurred through the discrimination against their first black pastor, the Rev. William Drew Robeson and the subsequent challenges that arose from that original discrimination. As part of the public act of reconciliation, putting words into practice, there was a joint service of Unity, Reconciliation and Healing. PC(USA) Co-Moderator, the Rev. Denise Anderson, talked about it in her blog.

Rev. Anderson also talks about the 222nd General Assembly’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which caused the Christian church to do irreparable harm to Native peoples of the Americas and the Pacific Islands. That repudiation includes apology, acknowledgment of the harm, and as we move forward, continued attention to including Native voices.

A church that is examining its own history of racism and brokenness is First Presbyterian Church of Montgomery (Alabama). In 2008, a new pastor and a desire for repentance began a process of reconciliation that began with an 18-part sermon series to start unpacking the theological, historical and practical issues that needed to be addressed. The process continues, and may never be fully complete. And that is part of being a reformed church, always reforming.

We are all broken. We all need to repent. But our brokenness is not the end of the story. Repentance and reconciliation are not simple, they are ongoing, but are who we are. Never finished becoming the people God created us to be and is loving us into.

Focus on Leadership: Finding Your Passion

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness
and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner

You have probably heard this quote from Frederick Buechner before. Those who have been through PC(USA) seminaries or PC(USA) elder training (or both) will find it to be a favorite among our colleagues. It speaks to our hopes – that what we care about might matter to the world, that our passions can be used in meaningful ways.

Of course, what brings me deep gladness might not meet the world’s deepest hunger, but finding that deep gladness nevertheless is essential to our call.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

We know the disciples and the apostles that joined them as the early church was formed and grew traveled far and wide, which is why we know the story of Jesus. But after the Resurrection, the first place Jesus sends the disciples is home, to Galilee. He says he will meet them there.

Before they go anywhere else, they need to get out of the room they are hiding in, get out of Jerusalem, and go back to where they started. Jesus does not say why this is. Is it to say goodbye to their families before they begin to travel far from home spreading the Gospel? Is it to be reminded of who called them in the place they were first called? Is it to get back to their foundation before encountering a greater world and its cultures? We don’t know. But we do know it is important.

So, start where you are. What brings you joy every day? Especially think about what brings you joy in the work you do in the church. These don’t have to be huge successes, but anything that brings you joy as you practice, serve and pray together.

Explore The World

The apostles didn’t stay in Galilee or Jerusalem. They planted churches there, then went north, south, east and west, seemingly traveling both by land and by sea, based on Scriptural and non-Scriptural evidence.

As leaders, we need to stretch ourselves, too. This may mean traveling from our homes for short- and long-term missions, classes and training or visiting other churches and ministries. It may mean trying new things – exploring ministries you have not previously participated in, learning new ministry skills, or trying out different ways to be mindful or practice your faith each day.

Share What Brings You Joy

As you find what brings you joy now and stretch to find new ways to live out a joyful faith, share what you learn! Tell other people what brings you joy and encourage them in the things that bring them joy. God brings together people who are not all alike so that we might joyfully work together.

I may love to run committee meetings well (this is truly a gift) and you may love to bring life to an overgrown community garden. And we may not find joy in doing the other’s work, but we can appreciate the good work produced by each other. Leaders who find joy in their work will bring greater joy to the whole community.

_______________

Find your passions, don’t stop growing and stretching, and share your joy with each other. In these ways we will meet the deep hungers of the world.

Nominating Committee Request

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Newark Presbytery,

Could you help the Nominating Committee?

We are searching for a candidate for the Vision Accountability Board who has human resources skills and experience. If you know someone with those gifts, would you please have them contact one of us, or pass on their name and contact information to us so we may call them?

Thank you,

David Noble 248.229.9720, [email protected]
Valencia Norman, [email protected]
Martha Curry [email protected]

Holy Week in Newark Presbytery

Holy Week starts after Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. You can follow Jesus and the disciples throughout the week in the different gospel accounts (Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19:28-24:12; John 12:12-20:18), and while many churches don’t have Holy Week services throughout Holy Week, some have additional services during the three days that make up the Triduum – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

As this great Presbyterian Mission Agency article talks about, worship during these three days is really all one liturgy over 1-3 services (most churches just do Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) and is not intended as historical reenactment but instead a meditation on the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. (If you want the full Triduum experience, check out First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell’s schedule!)

Join Newark Presbytery churches in this contemplation during Holy Week:

Newark Presbytery Holy Week Schedule

Here are Holy Week activities happening in Newark Presbytery (unless indicated, Sunday services will be as regularly scheduled on Palm Sunday and Easter – see church links for regular worship times). Find a church near you, and regular Sunday worship times, in our Newark Presbytery church directory, if not listed below. Contact the churches for more information.

Bethel Presbyterian Church
East Orange, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship
April 13
7:00pm

Bethany Presbyterian Church
Bloomfield, NJ

Good Friday
Worship
April 14
7:30pm

Bloomfield Presbyterian Church on the Green
Bloomfield, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae and Communion Worship with Watchung Presbyterian Church, Bloomfield
@Watchung Presbyterian (park in the IHOP parking lot)
April 13
8:00pm

Good Friday
Worship with Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair
@Central Presbyterian
April 14
8:00pm

Central Presbyterian Church
Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Lenten Soup Supper
Meal, Fellowship and Worship, including Communion around tables
April 13
6:30-7:45pm

Good Friday
Worship with Bloomfield Church on the Green
@Central Presbyterian
April 14
8:00pm

Elmwood United Presbyterian Church
Elmwood West – West Orange, NJ
Elmwood East – East Orange, NJ
Elmwood Central – Newark, NJ

Good Friday
Worship
@Elmwood East (135 Elmwood Ave, East Orange)
April 14
12:00pm

First Presbyterian Church of Arlington
Kearny, NJ

Maundy Thursday
April 13
Dinner – 6:00-7:00pm
Worship – 7:00-8:00pm

First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell
Caldwell, NJ

Maundy Thursday
April 13
Seder Meal – 5:30pm

Right before the Maundy Thursday service
Suggested donation is $10 per adult. Children under 10 are free.
Please bring a dessert.

Worship – 7:30pm

 

Good Friday
April 14th
Prayer and Meditation – 12:00pm
Worship – 7:30pm

Easter Vigil
April 15
8:00pm

 

Easter Sunday
Sunrise Service – 6:15am
Easter Worship – 9:00am & 11:00am

First Presbyterian Church of Verona
Verona, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Worship and Meal
April 13
Love Feast, Hand Washing & Communion
Bring your favorite soup to share.
6:30pm

Good Friday
April 14
Worship – 12pm
Children’s Workshop -10am-2pm

$10 per child and $25 per family
Singing, Crafts, God Time, Lunch, Easter Egg Hunt

Grace Presbyterian Church
Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Worship

April 13
8:00-9:00pm

Good Friday
Worship

April 14
8:00-9:00pm

Easter Sunday
Easter Egg Hunt

(in addition to regular worship times)
April 16
9:00am

 

Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair
Upper Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship with Communion

April 13
7:30-9:00pm

Easter Sunday
Worship
April 13
9:00am – Traditional Worship with the Chancel Choir
11:00am – Family Worship

Prospect Presbyterian Church
Maplewood, NJ

Palm Sunday
Sensational Sunday
April 9
9:15am

Walk through the last week of Jesus’ life by visiting different areas of the church where scenes of that week will be shared through creative storytelling. Followed by worship.

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship with Communion

April 13
7:30pm

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 8:00am and 10:30am
Easter breakfast after 8am service

United Presbyterian Church of West Orange
West Orange, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Meal and Worship

April 13
Meal – 6:00pm
Worship with Stations of the Cross – 7:00pm

Good Friday
Tenebrae Worship
7:30pm

Easter Egg Hunt
April 15
1:00pm

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 7:00am & 10:30am

Watchung Presbyterian Church
Bloomfield, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae and Communion Worship with Bloomfield Church on the Green
@Watchung Presbyterian (park in the IHOP parking lot)
April 13
8:00pm

Wyoming Presbyterian Church
Millburn, NJ

Palm Sunday
April 9
10:00am
Children’s Palm Parade & Easter Egg Hunt

Good Friday
Meal and Tenebrae Worship

April 14
7:30 pm

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 9:30am & 11:00am