Finding the Right Balance on Assembly Agendas: The Moderator’s Message

By Rev. John Vest, 2014 Moderator of the Chicago Presbytery
John vest headshot formalLast year’s Vision and Praxis Task Force recommended that presbytery assemblies should each include a Bible study, educational or training session, and/or some kind small group activity, in addition to regular and special business and worship. As a member of that task force, I have felt obligated to ensure that we move in this direction during my term as Moderator of the Presbytery of Chicago. In collaboration with Stated Clerk Barbara Bundick and an ad hoc group of presbyters who have met between each assembly to strategize and discuss how our gatherings are going, this has been a priority of my moderator year. I’d like to think that our higher attendance in recent assemblies demonstrates the fruit of these endeavors. And I’d love to see even more presbyters feel like these assemblies are worthwhile—even vital—investments in time as we respond to God’s call to shared ministry and mission.

It’s no easy task to put together an assembly agenda, and I am only one voice among many who contribute to each gathering. It’s a challenge fitting in everything we want to do and everything we need to do. It takes vision, resolve, and pastoral sensitivity to know what to include and what to exclude. Finding the right balance is more of an art than a science. At times it feels like this work is even more difficult because presbyters maintain a range of opinions about what the nature and purpose of these assemblies should be. Some want to get in, accomplish our necessary business, and get out. Others value the opportunity to develop and maintain relationships. I don’t think that these perspectives need to be mutually exclusive and that this is yet another set of values we must balance.

I am still convinced that the Vision and Praxis emphasis on listening and connecting is vital for our future as a presbytery. More so than rules, regulations, and parliamentary procedures, I believe that relationship building, connecting, and networking are the aspects of our denominational way of being that Presbyterians value the most. May we continue to live into this relational way of shared living and mission that we have been blessed with as the Presbytery of Chicago.

It has been a privilege and honor to serve as your moderator this year. I look forward to the leadership of Moderator-Elect Sonia Bodi (Ruling Elder, Evanston First) in 2015.

This article was originally published on page 3 of the November 2014 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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