As I hope we are all aware, the Presbytery is in the midst of a discernment conversation that started under our previous Leader for Mission and Vision and was picked up by our current leader in Oct. 2020. The Original Discernment Team or ODT convened by Timm High was reactivated. Using a more structured process based on the Guideline of Communal Discernment, a PCUSA publication, the team discerned four sets of questions based on our history, our purpose, our future, and our identity plus an overarching question of where God is calling the Presbytery.
After a training session on discernment, four groups of volunteers met on zoom to discern their responses to the questions posed by the ODT. Notes were taken and approved by the groups and then shared prior to the last Presbytery Assembly for all to review. During the Sept. 11th meeting, 11 groups each led by a facilitator/notetaker discerned their thoughts on the overarching question of “Where is God calling the Presbytery at this time?”
If you were a part of those groups, we are very grateful for your participation in the conversations. Our goal has been to include as many voices as possible in this process. We estimate that between 65 to 70 people have participated.
Following the Assembly meeting, we compiled the notes from all 11 groups and sent them to the ODT. The team then met on Oct. 15th on zoom to consider the results of the Presbytery conversations along with the notes from the conversations based on the questions the ODT had discerned in the Spring of 2021. After a thoughtful discussion of that material, the ODT turned to the heart of the matter: what key issues or concerns for the Presbytery were revealed. In addition, the ODT determined overwhelmingly the need to add additional members. We are hopeful that soon the ODT will become the EDT – the Expanded Discernment Team.
After some discussion 4 areas of focus were lifted up:
- Empowering Leaders – Support Congregations
- Radical Welcome
- Next Generation
- Unifying Mission
Paul Knopf of the ODT volunteered to code the notes to show how the various comments fall under the four areas of focus.
I have selected several examples under each of the topics that led us to these four areas of focus.
Empower Leaders – Support Congregations:
Our best work is to listen and to care for each other.
To be quite open and share all information of the duties and work of the presbytery – not to hold anything back and keep things confidential and to be as transparent as possible.
Maybe God is calling all to discover their gifts and also to learn what the Presbytery is about.
The HPCC report shows that a number of congregations are in transition or have gone through new leadership or departure of leadership. Presbytery is walking alongside those congregations and helping to identify new leadership; this is always going to be the case, so Presbytery is needed for that work.
How do we have mutual respect across lines of theological differences?
We need to listen to one another.
We’re becoming more inclusive.
Inclusivity – immigrant ministry; expand to help Afghans if needed.
Address the “elephant in the room” – We live in the most diverse area of California, yet are the least diverse Presbytery; that seems to be somewhat intentional.
Diversity requires intentionality and people feeling welcome.
God grieves when we are not open to all people.
When we talk to young people, we don’t want to import our understanding from them.
The Presbyterian Church of today is not the church of youth of senior members.
Shared youth groups are a possibility.
How do we bring more kids into the church, especially diverse youth? Hispanic youth in particular.
Adapting new technologies may help attract younger people.
Young people are seeking inclusive environments.
Would like to see Presbytery and our congregations more involved in justice work.
Immigrants need assistance, help one another.
Mission work is very important but hard to do with smaller churches.
Gather all together to do one big mission project each year.
Mission is essential. We need something to do that unites all of us.
These are some examples of thoughts expressed that come under the four areas of focus.
We have identified what we care about; what we are worried about and what kind of legacy we would like to leave. If you have a passion for these areas of focus, or you would like to point out another area you think we have missed, please join us in the Expanded Discernment Team. This is an ongoing process of discernment. To join us, contact Lee, Rob, or me.
The notes from the Presbytery discussions will be shared through a link to the posting on the Presbytery website.