I am sometimes asked about the purpose of a presbytery, or more broadly, the purpose of a denomination. If you have read any of these little musings, you know that I think in metaphors. One struck me the other day that is a way I will answer this question.
I was driving in my hometown where I still have my permanent residence and where my husband is a pastor. I was at a very busy intersection which is where the church he serves is located. I have been familiar with this intersection my whole life. Oddly enough, the church that my husband serves has a preschool of which I am an alumna. I spent many happy mornings there when I was four years old. I even have a very vivid memory of one of those mornings. Another girl and I were punished for talking during rest time. Our punishment was to sit at a little picnic table in the hallway while the other children rested. I still remember thinking that was a silly punishment since what she and I did was continue to chat, this time by leaning under the table and whispering!
Anyway, the intersection is very busy now, one of the busiest in Peoria. There are traffic signals, multiple turn lanes, often there are police officers nearby. While I was there the other morning, though, there was very little traffic. It was raining hard and it was early on Saturday morning. I was stopped at a red light, but could have safely made the left turn I needed to make. There were not other cars in sight. (I waited, of course.)
The traffic lights, the lane markings, the speed limits are all the result of the experience of people over time at that corner. Traffic engineers have designed all of these things so that everyone who uses that corner can safely proceed. They are very much like our constitution (the Book of Order) and our General Assembly and presbytery. The collected wisdom has been brought together, tempered by experience, and provided to us to help us carry out our ministries. The traffic engineers do not tell us why we are driving through that corner. They do not regulate the way we carry out the tasks of our day. But, they have provided the basic rules by which we will all make it through that corner safely
Just so, each congregation makes its own decisions about how to carry out its ministry within the basic parameters set by our denomination. These are not arbitrary or punitive parameters. They may seem like they do not apply to us, just as I could have proceeded safely through the corner. But they help us to operate in a way that we can all understand and which has prevented some problems in the past. They are our collective wisdom about how to respond to God’s call. We are not left alone trying to find a way forward. We have these outlines to help us as we bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ.
Susan D. Krummel (Sue) Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago 312-488-3015