When people think of the word “religion” they consider external things: “institutions, organizations, buildings, dogma, rules, hierarchy, order, and authority” From Christianity after Religion by Diana Butler Bass
What we long for are the internal things: deep community, unconditional hospitality, spiritual peace, God moments. But – even if your spiritual community is a house church – there will be some management required. The not-fun-stuff of ministry. Somebody’s got to be sure there is toilet paper. And coffee.
When I first read the job description for my current church position, one job requirement stood out: The Ability to Sit Through Long Meetings.
Really, that is one of my job requirements, which begged the question: Just how long are these meetings? For the record, I’ve not experienced terribly long meetings, or at least they haven’t felt long, mostly because they are about things I love:
talking with people about their faith journeys and how they believe in God
hearing about what God is telling people – often over coffee or lunch
mediating tough issues as brothers and sisters in Christ
figuring out how we can get out of the way and help somebody’s call come to life
I love this stuff. But – from all outward appearances – I am the purveyor of rules and regulations. I am the person who is going to make pastors and churches do something they don’t want to do. I am “The Presbytery.”
I planned to go to a church meeting to talk about their mission plans a couple weeks ago, but the day of the meeting was asked not to come. “They don’t want ‘The Presbytery’ there.”
When I first came on board, I hoped to get together with everybody who (like myself) attended the first Fellowship of Presbyterians gathering in Minneapolis. But I was told it wouldn’t be good to attend because I now represented The Presbytery (and apparently this was not a good thing.)
I also wanted to get together with the pastors under 40 to help them get stuff done – in a new way. After a couple attempts in the first months of my ministry, I am finally invited to assorted meetings of the Young Turks, so to speak. It wasn’t certain, at first, if it was a good plan to have somebody from The Presbytery present.
Here’s the thing, we are all The Presbytery here in The Windy City and Windy Cityland – all PCUSA ruling elders, teaching elders, parishioners, friends, etc. I just try to make things happen – God-willing – to the glory of God.
Yes, I sit through long meetings. But that’s not half bad considering what I get to talk about and listen to. I’m not crazy about being the scapegoat when a pastor or church needs to blame someone. (e.g. “The Presbytery made us do this.”) It goes against every emerging church cell in my body to work in an administrative role for the institutional church – God’s little joke on me.
But – yes, I’m the Presbytery – and to sort of quote one of my favorite theologians - so can you.