10 Things I Learned Moving the Presbytery Office

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

choward@glpby.org

 


 

  1. Change is not easy. There is an emotional level to change that I did not count on. I feel sadness leaving the old building space. So much ministry was done on Tower Grove, and so many lives have been affected. As I’ve read through files, I’ve seen the evidence of strategic planning, hand written ideas that have become policy and structure, and the giftedness of those who serve the presbytery as volunteers and staff.
  2. Plans must be flexible. We planned on selling the building early February, and moving at that time. Instead it sold the last day of February, and we will be moving the first week of April. Every change of plan creates a domino effect involving movers, contractors, deliveries, calendars, etc. I have come to accept that things will not turn out as planned, but eventually all of our plans will happen.
  3. Prayer makes a difference. Each congregation I’ve visited has offered to pray for the presbytery office. We feel these prayers as we work, plan, and move. Thank you all so much.
  4. Good partnerships matter. The Botanical Garden is not just a buyer, they have been a partner throughout. St. Andrews Resource For Seniors is our partner at our new space. They have been a tremendous help with IT, copier, phones, and room reservations.
  5. Think long-term. With each change comes frustration. To offset this feeling, my motto around the office has been, “Five years from now, who will care that minor detail didn’t go as planned.”
  6. A team is better than a superstar. In college basketball, Villanova is favored to win the tournament. Villanova doesn’t have the talent of Kansas, but Villanova works well as a team. Our staff functions seamlessly in thinking through tasks, handing off responsibility, and getting the job done. I am so proud of them.
  7. Support others during times of change. I haven’t been the best at this. I was so focused on what I had to do, I wasn’t as sensitive to Partners for Just Trade, BRO, and the History Team. Unfortunately, we don’t get do-overs, so I can only try to do better next time.
  8. The future will be different. We will work in a different area, around different people, with different expectations. There will be different traffic patterns and parking. We are committed to making our space and experience hospitable for the presbytery and our meetings.
  9. Delegate and let it go. Deciding to delegate something is easy. Allowing others to do it their way and trusting it will get done is where the sweat comes in! As leader, I have to delegate the work and authority, but keep the responsibility. The buck still stops with me.
  10. Ask for help. One day I was frustrated and overwhelmed with all that had to be done. I spoke with my coach who said, “Have you asked for help?” I learned that asking for help is being vulnerable not weak. It means allowing others to get involved so they too can benefit from the work.
  11. (Bonus) Develop a narrative. We thought our office would be ready on March 27th, but it won’t be. Instead it will be ready on the 30th, which is Good Friday. We developed a narrative that we will not move on Good Friday while Jesus is on the cross. Instead we will move after Easter and live into the resurrection! Behold, God makes all things new!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

New Movements in the Journey

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
vhawkins@glpby.org


This past Sunday as I sat in First Church Edwardsville, Illinois, as they dedicated their new building, I was in awe at this new stage of their journey. Entering the building I was engulfed by the sound of excited voices and the smell of newly painted walls, new carpet, chairs, and windows.  My feet sank into the firmness of the mixed grey carpet as I made my way to the pastor’s office with a picture window displaying a winter scene of rural America. New chairs, still wrapped in plastic wrap, were stacked to my right and as I toured the sanctuary I was greeted by the rich colors of the stained-glass windows. The new stained-glass windows complimented the old ones.

I listened as the pastor and members talked about the features of the church and how the past had not been shunted aside, but artfully blended into the new. With this new building in this new location, this discerning congregation made the decision to following the promptings of the Spirit and move onto an unknown path trusting that God walks with them. The dedication service was wonderful.

As I sat in the pews, I thought about the presbytery office building. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy has made some significant decisions over the last couple of years—ne major decision was to sell the presbytery office building and to rent office space. Each day I walk into the office and I see the evidence of that decision. We are in the midst of moving and there are fewer items in the building to move because our history team has found new homes for some items, presbytery members have claimed a piece of the rich history that has filled this building, and the Presbyterian Historical Society has claimed journals and minutes which they will digitize and store. Boxes are still in offices, along the hallway walls, and tucked away in corners. As staff, we have moved from a distant understanding of the move to a restlessness to once again be settled in one place without the disruptions of packing, purging, and second-guessing ourselves as we discern the best way forward.

I look forward to the next step of our journey in a new location as we discern how to best use that sacred space in creative and life-giving ways that witness to our neighbors that we are a community of faith, willing to walk an unknown path for we trust that God walks it with us.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Membership

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

choward@glpby.org


I often say that Jesus is the worst evangelist in the Bible! When people come up to Jesus to be one of his disciples, instead of telling them to just say a few words and declare, “Now you’re a Christian,” Jesus puts heavy requirements on people. To one he said to sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me. To others he said they would have to lose everything in this world. My point is that Jesus didn’t make membership easy.

Being a member of a Presbyterian church is not easy either!

As Presbyterians, we take membership seriously. At baptism, parents or guardians profess faith, and commit to raising the baptized child as a Christian. Years later during confirmation, this same child takes the faith as their own, and commits to living as a disciple of Jesus. The Book of Order lists eleven responsibilities of congregational membership (G-1.0304). These include:

  • Lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support.
  • Studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life.
  • Responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others.
  • Participating in the governing responsibilities of the church.
  • Reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.

Taking membership seriously means that every member matters. Taking membership seriously means taking our commitment to God, discipleship of Jesus Christ, and leadership of the Holy Spirit seriously, personally, and connectionally.

I believe in cleaning the membership rolls. As a pastor, this was one of my most difficult responsibilities. If someone didn’t show up at church for the year, we would call, email, and inquire about them. I would even make drop in visits to see if everything was okay. Only when it was clear that the person or family did not want to be connected to the congregation, were they then removed from the rolls.

The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy is a connection of congregations. Just like individual members, congregations can become distant and non-communicable. The distance is demonstrated by not participating in presbytery gatherings, not giving per capita or mission dollars, and not completing statistical reports for the denomination.

As pastor to the presbytery, I and the presbytery staff are committed to reaching out to each of our congregations, both near and far, including those drifting away and not feeling the connection to the presbytery. Every congregation matters. When we strengthen the lines that connect us, we are all made stronger, and we are able to be the body of Christ for one another and the world.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

The Lens of Disaster

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

choward@glpby.org


My first career out of college was as a claims adjuster. As part of that work I learned how to build a house from the ground up. This lead me to work on a national CAT team, where I would be called to respond to catastrophes anywhere in the United States. While doing CAT duty, I saw the power of hurricanes and tornadoes. I witnessed large scale destruction of communities. I encountered people who had lost everything. To my surprise, these people extended hospitality and kindness toward me and my fellow workers. I was invited to more community pot-lucks, barbeques, and shrimp feast (This was in Galveston Texas) than I could attend.

Oftentimes disaster brings out our generous, compassionate, and supportive nature. Our churches organize mission trips and create disaster kits in the face of calamity. In the book, A Paradise Built In Hell: extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster, Rebecca Solnit makes this argument. Solnit challenges us to rethink the worst-case scenario of life, after society and our beloved institutions collapse. She writes, “If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”

The Parkland school shooting is an example of a disaster that is creating a new system and new order. Some argue that the teenagers are using the disaster for political means. I believe the disaster is creating a new way for the students to be citizens, comrades, and members of their learning community. The system broke down and failed them. The walkout planned for March 14th is symbolic of walking away from a failed institution. As a response they are recreating and re-envisioning what society and education can be like, and how they should act toward one another. Solnit writes, “The prevalent human nature in disaster is resilient, resourceful, generous, empathic, and brave.”

I am not trying to get into a gun debate, especially in Missouri! That is not what this article is about. I really think we should look at what these kids are doing, and how it resonates with our human nature, and a positive hope that is made alive through disaster.

The disaster in Parkland is delivering a group of students who are bold, brave, and inspiring. They are appealing to a deeper nature in all of us. A nature that goes beyond constitutional rights, cultural norms, and governance. The students are challenging all of us to rise up and put human life first, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Then all else will fall in line.

For more on the National School Walkout planned for March 14th, go to: https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalSchoolWalkout?src=hash

Rev. Craig M. Howard