May 1, 2017
We’re aware that many of you are wondering about the future structure and staffing of the Presbytery as we work to discern our way forward. That work is ongoing and no specific recommendations have yet been made, but we would like to share with you in an informal way some of the progress the Mission Council has made so far.
Following the meaningful and informative special Presbytery meeting of March 28th, at which our consultant, David Specht, led us through a process of discussion and discernment, the Mission Council has had two meetings to discuss the outcomes of that event.
At the first of those meetings, April 3rd, we were joined by David. At the second, April 25th, we were joined by Synod Leader Harold Delhagen, with David participating via online conferencing.
At the first of those meetings, Vice Moderator Sue Smith shared some highlights from her study of the comments reported by each of the table-discussion groups on March 28th. You can read the results of those group discussions in this document
The most consistently mentioned positive observation was the strength of personal relationships within the Presbytery and the most consistently mentioned concern was the lack of financial resources.
Bill Faust reminded the Mission Council, based on the visits made to sessions in recent years, that the leading resourcing needs our churches have identified are stewardship, Christian education and hands-on mission.
Harold shared the observation that, here in Monmouth, we are not alone in feeling financial pressures. Because of those pressures, only two of the seven geographic presbyteries in New Jersey — Newton and West Jersey — currently have installed executive leaders. There is growing openness, among New Jersey Presbyterians, to outside-the-box thinking and heightened cooperation across existing presbytery boundaries. At this time no move has been made to propose any boundary changes, but that remains a possibility in the future.
These widespread presbytery leadership transitions offer an unusual opportunity for exploring cooperative work. Harold suggested two specific possibilities for such cooperation: (1) a youth conference, held jointly with another presbytery, building on the momentum of the Youth Triennium, and (2) the possibility of working with West Jersey Presbytery to reinvigorate our respective Cuba mission partnerships.
Recommending the Synod’s New Way Forward process as a model, Harold presented the concept of a transitional leader who would guide the Presbytery through a two-year period of discerning new missional identity. Ideally, this process would clarify both the shape of our staffing and the extent of our future cooperation with neighboring presbyteries.
The Mission Council looks forward to continued dialogue with the commissioners of Presbytery at the Saturday, May 20th Presbytery meeting at Lincroft.
Recognizing that there are benefits from meeting together more frequently, the Mission Council discussed the possibility of increasing the number of Presbytery meetings — including adding an October stated Presbytery meeting — but took no action on that. We will revisit that possibility at our next stated Mission Council meeting on May 11th, and will possibly have a recommendation to bring to the May 20th Presbytery meeting.
The Mission Council remains open to any and all suggestions from members of Monmouth Presbytery as to our way forward, so please do let us know what you’re thinking. Please pray for our Presbytery, the Mission Council and for our common mission.