Becoming a Welcoming Presbytery

When the presbytery communicates to a moderator of session that the presbytery would like to attend the next session meeting, how do the members of the session feel about the upcoming meeting? What do they think the meeting will entail?

This is the question Corey Schlosser-Hall, Deputy Executive Director of Vision, Rebuilding, and Innovation for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) asked at a recent gathering of presbytery leaders and stated clerks. The participants responded with a range of answers that spanned the spectrum from “What are we doing wrong?” to “We’re going to get a scolding!”

Next, Corey asked, “And how would you want the session to respond?” The participants’ tone changed from judgement to welcoming. Most would like sessions to see the presbytery as a partner in ministry and someone who is showing up to help a congregation. This begs the question: How does the image of the presbytery shift from antagonist to friend; from judge to advocate?

Perhaps the answer lies in relationships. It is important that congregations have a positive opinion of the work and ministry of the presbytery. Every congregation will go through a time of transition, conflict, or change. If a positive relationship has been developed between congregation or session and presbytery, often the presbytery is then seen as a partner in ministrynot an enforcer-in-chief.

My desire is to change the way the presbytery of Chicago is received and perceived by our sessions and congregations. This is done through creating a website that contains policies that are less demanding and more inviting. This is done by meeting with pastors, sitting with sessions, and preaching in congregations. The entire ministerial staff of the presbytery seeks to build better relationships through presence and listening.

We have now added Rev. Jana Blazek to our team as Director of Congregational Relationships. Jana will be reaching out to leaders and congregations to arrange visits, fellowship, and gatherings. I am excited about the enthusiasm and energy Jana brings and look forward to her work of connecting congregations and leaders to one another and helping us to live into the future God has for the church. Welcome Jana!

Rev. Craig Howard