Look Who Came!

This past Thursday 80 people from more than 40 congregations gathered in the Rutgers Presbyterian Church to hear how God is stirring the church to re-form for the 21st century. We began with song and prayer. Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill introduced herself and the challenges the church faces and can face. She is the PCUSA’s Office of Theology, Formation, and Evangelism’s face, voice and leader encouraging presbyteries across the nation to invite their congregations into intentional and prayerful relationships with one another and congregational practices that can help pastors and congregations undertake honest assessments and revitalizing action. Starting with a reflection on what we heard in the reading of Isaiah 43, we shared what it inspired in us and what struggles we carry in seeking to revitalize the communities of faith from which we come. We talked about and walked through seven marks of vitality in congregations. Then we looked at what congregations would be called to prepare for in 2019 and begin doing over two years in 2020 and 2021: choosing to be engaged in this initiative, pastors forming cohorts groups that meet monthly, congregational and presbytery conversations about seven marks of vitality, undertaking an honest congregational assessment, discerning revitalizing actions, and living into those actions. We were reminded her office would like to know by April what congregations would be willing to begin in 2020, in prayerful discernment with God and other congregations in this presbytery, to re-form and revitalize how they can live more fully into faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ over a two-year period. National staff and facilitators within our presbytery provide support.

PAUSE… So soon to decide? For two years?

I remember the call of the first disciples who immediately dropped their nets, left their father in the boat, when Jesus said, “Come and follow me.” With a cohort of twelve Jesus called from different backgrounds, they spent the next three years walking together with Jesus. He taught them many things. They watched his interactions with others. He sent them on missions to proclaim the gospel and cast out demons. They argued among themselves about who was the greatest. Yet, they all fled when he was arrested and lead away to be crucified. They were trying to survive. Jesus wanted them to thrive. Death could not defeat everything he had told them. The living Christ appeared among them; then was gone. With all that they had seen and heard, with the power and counsel of the Holy Spirit within them, this one cohort of disciples began to teach and share and practice with others everything they had learned and experienced with Jesus. All this, from just three years walking with Jesus. Re-formed. Transformed.

Pastors and Congregations: you are invited to take 2 years to deepen relationships with God and with each other, praying for and working through what can revitalize you and congregations you and your leaders are called to lead into faithfulness to Jesus Christ—and revitalize this presbytery. Divisions and distrust will have to be acknowledged, reconciled, so honest sharing, trust and love for each other can be renewed by power of the Holy Spirit. Making honest assessments of your congregations can lead to discerning where God is leading the congregation to be more vital in its congregational health, caring relationships, Spirit-inspired worship, empowering leadership, outward focus, authentic evangelism, and lifelong formation as Jesus’ disciples living faithful to the gospel he proclaimed. I join you in prayer.

God needs ambassadors of the Gospel in New York City and all the places within and beyond our City that our members’ lives and service takes them. We need vital communities of faith that can attract, form, and support those who want to be such faithful ambassadors. More than 40 congregations showed up! I want to invite you to be, and to build those vital and faithful communities together with each other. To say when God asks, “Whom shall I send?”, together we respond, “Here we are. Send us.”