That is always a happy thing to hear from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. For me, of course, it has a deeper meaning this year as I begin my tenure with you as your executive presbyter. I look forward to learning more about the Presbyterians of Chicago as we work together. I have been coming to Chicago my whole life, but mostly for shopping, museums, and seeing musicals in the beautiful theaters. (My first one was the Sound of Music). My mom, grandma, and I used to take the Rock Island Rocket from Peoria every December to shop at Marshall Field, Kroch’s, Brentano’s, and Fannie Mae. We would end our day with tea under the big Christmas tree at Field’s and then get on the train to go back home.
Now it will be your turn to teach me about what it means to be a Presbyterian in these parts. How is your congregation a blessing to the neighborhood in which you find yourselves? What makes your neighbors happy when they drive or walk by your building? How is your ministry in a hospital or educational institution or community organization enriching the lives you touch and how are your bringing them hope? I am anxious to hear your stories.
Here are a few of my hopes for our ministry together. I hope that we can build on the good work you have done during the two years of interim leadership and “put some legs on” what you have done together. Are we ready to use what you have learned having deep conversations with one another around tables as we move beyond conversation into action?
I hope we can continue to build a sense of community. There are so many ways for us to be fragmented into different constituencies—northside/southside; one race or another; multi-staff church/church with a part-time pastoral leader: the list could go on and on. What are your ideas about how we can see that we have much more in common than what divides us?
And, I hope that we can become a laboratory for the PC(USA) in addressing issues that cannot be ignored. We have the resources, the experience, the insight, and the ability to be a leader as a presbytery to find solutions for both the processes we need to address these issues and the ability to come up with some solutions that might work in other places as well. With what issue would you like to start? Funding of congregations and denominations (since giving as an obligation does not seem to be as appealing as it might once have been.)? Racism and the inequities it has created in leadership and resources? Congregations that have become burdened with buildings that are a financial drain and are used for only a few hours a week by members alone? Pastoral leadership that is at a loss to address the “stuckness” of many congregations? Where shall we start?
I hope you have had a restful holiday season and that you are ready to get back to work invigorated and hopeful for the year ahead as we find ways to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Susan Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Chicago Presbytery