Civility and Kindness

Blog post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


“I will know that the presbytery has been transformed when we show kindness toward one another.” I made this statement in a Vision Team meeting in the middle of 2017. It was my first attempt to grasp what was occurring in the life of our presbytery, and what needed to change. Kindness can be experienced as civility. By actually listening to one another, and not just waiting to interrupt, is a show of respect. Kindness means feeling the frustration we share as we work within the rules of a system that often seems daunting, irrelevant, indifferent, and unreasonable. Kindness is the grace we extend to one another, especially in times of brokenness, insecurity, and vulnerability.

I am experiencing kindness at our presbytery gatherings. I am watching people show patience and flexibility when things are not perfect. I observe people listening to one another, even when we do not agree. I see people supporting ideas and decisions that rub against their personal interest but in the name of the greater good, they say “Yes!”

We will still disagree. We will still hold values that conflict. The Presbyterian church is a large tent, and Giddings-Lovejoy is a microcosm of the entire denomination. But we are disagreeing with a tone of kindness. We are having public discussions with respect for one another.

As a little boy I would occasionally get into a fight with one of my brothers. I am the youngest and they were bigger and stronger than I, so it was always a losing battle, except that one time I sprayed Keith with a water hose and ran, and he couldn’t catch me! That’s when I learned I was fast. But I digress! During these times my Mother would yell from the back of the house, “Stop hitting other people’s children!” As we show kindness to one another, perhaps we see one another as God’s children, and who are we to strike or hit God’s child?

Thanks to all of you who participated in the presbytery gathering. Thank you for the energy, humor, attention, seriousness, prayerfulness, and love that you bring. Thank you for sharing in the work of the ministry. This includes the neighborhood exegesis, personnel training, Missional Church workshop, business meeting, and worship. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Psalm 133)” Thank you all for making the presbytery gathering a place to show kindness, civility, and respect for one another.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

Blog post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


Earlier this year, I purged the files in my office as part of our move. As I began to go through the hundreds of folders, binders, and files, I was amazed at the good and thorough work the volunteers and staff of the presbytery had done. In many cases, I was able to trace back the origins of a decision or policy, which we now take for granted. I found answers to many questions and used some of the documents to begin plotting a course for the future of the presbytery.

I am not challenging you to go through all of your stuff (although purging old books and papers is not a bad idea)! However, I learned that there are so many questions we have already answered. The answers are often hidden in plain sight, and they can be found if we would just take the time to stop and read.

In a recent Vision Team meeting, concern was raised about the clergy misconduct that has come to light in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. During our discussion, we discovered an excellent Sexual Misconduct Policy on our website. The policy was put together by our own members, and it was hiding in plain sight! I encourage every congregation to access and download the policy here.

Our website is loaded with resources to help our sessions, congregations, and ministry teams. It all comes down to a commitment to search out and read what is already produced. This means taking the time to download the papers for the presbytery gathering on your computer, tablet, or phone, and then reading them; highlighting questions; and talking with team leaders at presbytery about questions you would like clarity on. On Thursday, we will not have candidates read their statement of faith publicly, since the statements are in the papers. This provides more time for questions and affirmations.

Perhaps this can be our new norm: a commitment to read what is sent to us in order to prepare for our meetings and time together. We can also commit to scanning the website for answers and reading the policies that already exist. I know the process is imperfect. You may struggle to find something, find something that is badly written, or not find something where you think it should be. When this happens, talk to us. Let Janice or Leigh know when things are not working as they should. They can be reached by calling (314) 772-2395, by emailing jmcmillen@glpby.org or lporter@glpby.org. Let’s work together to have an informed and knowledgeable presbytery!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Why Commissioned Pastors

Blog post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


At our next Presbytery Gathering on August 23rd at First Edwardsville, we will be examining two commissioned pastors (CP). Commissioned pastors are formerly known as commissioned ruling elders-(CRE). Our presbytery currently has 14 commissioned pastors serving 13 congregations. The average size congregation being served by a commissioned pastor is 41. Often, the commissioned pastor is the only choice a congregation has for pastoral leadership. As the membership size of a congregation decreases, so does the capacity to afford called and installed pastors. Decreasing congregations are on the increase. The overall presbytery picture shows an increase in the number of congregations with 50 members or less.

The Presbytery of Giddings Lovejoy has taken an aggressive and intelligent action to create the best commissioned pastors possible. Rev. Stephanie Knopf and Deborah Tracy have led the design of a two-year program to train ruling elders who want to become commissioned pastors. The program will include course work on bible, pastoral care, reformed traditions, and reformed theology. It will also include work as an intern. The program is designed for ruling elders who work at a job other than ministry. Therefore, the courses are available on weekends and online. At the end of the program, the ruling elder will be commissioned to a particular congregation or ministry, after examination by the presbytery. There are currently 11 ruling elders admitted to the commissioned pastors training program.

The two ruling elders coming before the presbytery, Alonzo Williams and Richard Hadley each have the M.Div. For a variety of reasons, they are not pursuing ordination in the traditional Minister of Word and Sacrament track. Alonzo serves as pastor of Beria in St. Louis, and Richard serves as a chaplain in Crystal City. They will be available in the sanctuary at noon to meet and greet people who want to learn more about their history and story. The actual examination will only focus on their statement of faith.

The goal of the meet and greet, and examination, is for the presbytery to get to know those commissioned pastors serving in ministry context that are unfamiliar or distant. It is a way for us to be a connectional church as we get to know all of those serving in the presbytery. I look forward to seeing you August 23rd as we continue to risk and experiment with ways to do ministry in the 21st Century.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Missional Church Primmer

Blog post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


I am excited about the keynote speaker and worship leader at our upcoming presbytery gathering. Dr. Bonnie Sue Lewis is the Professor of Mission and World Christianity at Dubuque Seminary. She is speaking to us about being a missional church. I thought it would be a good idea to do a short blog on what missional church means, and why we are learning about it in Giddings-Lovejoy.

Missional church means believing that God is active and involved in the world, and our job as church is to find out what God is doing and join God. This does not mean that God is not present in the local church. Missional church is just another way to do church. Alan J. Roxburgh an M. Scott Boren explain missional church in their book, Introducing the Missional Church. They define our current model of church as the Attractional Model. They write:

“The assumption of the attractional imagination is that average people outside the church are looking for a church and know they should belong to one, and therefore, church leaders should create the most attractive attractional church possible. The mission, then, is to get people to attend.”

I believe our congregations function in the attractional model. We try to make our churches welcoming, and our programing inviting. We have contemporary worship, PowerPoint, and jazz bands. And there is nothing wrong with any of these. Missional church is not a criticism of the attractional model. Unfortunately, the attractional model only works in 20% of our congregations. These congregations are growing. The other 80% of our congregations using the attractional model are somewhere between staying even and a drastic, unsustainable reduction in membership. Since the attractional model isn’t working for the majority of our congregations, the missional church is another possible idea.

Roxburgh and Boren explain missional church this way:

 “God is at work in the world to redeem creation, and God invites us to participate in this mission. . . This imagination turns most of our church practices on their head. It invites us to turn toward our neighborhoods and communities, listening first to what is happening among people and learning to ask different question about what God is up to in the neighborhood. . . What are the ways we need to change in order to engage the people in our community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?”

Come out and learn about missional church. I invite you to participate in the neighborhood canvas as well and begin looking for what God is doing in our neighborhoods.

Rev. Craig M. Howard