By Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter
"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength." Is 40:31
Last month I attended the Fall Polity conference put on by the Office of the General Assembly. This is an annual gathering for presbytery leaders to learn and check in with one another about what's going on across the PCUSA. This year's gathering was led in large part by Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall, Executive Presbyter in North Puget Sound Presbytery, and former staff member of Seattle Presbytery. Corey did an amazing job of lifting up how the Presbyterians here in the Northwest are experimenting with new ways of being the church and how our relationships remain vital and strong in our presbyteries.
I say this because it is clear to me that what God is building here among us is unique. Unlike other presbyteries, we're neither mired in conflict nor stuck in malaise. Instead, I believe, God is renewing us in astounding ways.
Perhaps that's why I've been drawn to reading and rereading Isaiah lately. At the moment of Israel's greatest despair, God chose to renew and rebuild rather than abandon. God acted to comfort (40:1), instead of chasten. Yet in order for Israel see God's renewal effort among them, they had to blind themselves to the past (42:8-9).
We're at a similar point in Seattle Presbytery. God's renewing us and calling us to a hopeful future, but we cannot be bound by the past. That is why we're taking the time at this November meeting to speak with one another about where we see God renewing us, rebuilding us, and how we believe God is calling us to live together into the future God has for us.
Here's a few of the ways our leadership is seeing God at work: affiliate membership, SeaPres Café resourcing, and refocused stewardship of mission assets.
Last month's polity gathering revealed to me that we are one of the few presbyteries that is not in deep conflict. This is due in large part to the fact that we consider humility, service to one another, and our communion in Christ as foundational principles that guide our common life together as a presbytery, even in the midst of disagreement and departures. Given the stability and trust we continue to engender, it is not surprising to me that there is a healthy interest in Affiliate Membership from other presbyteries across the country.
SeaPres Cafés are another new thing that God is growing among us. With presbytery business taking less and less time, it is natural that we would seek to use our time for resource sharing and community building. It is our hope that the Presbytery meeting schedule recommendation (2 Tuesday/2 Saturday) will serve as a good first step toward enhanced resourcing of each other for ministry and will build an even stronger foundation for partnership in mission.
Last, I'm pleased to report that our financial health is strong going into 2014 and beyond. In the next five years, it is the plan that nearly half of the $300,000 in lease proceeds from our Mission Assets will be utilized to benefit Seattle Presbytery Operations and Mission keeping per capita stable ($40 per capita hasn't changed for over five years now) and nearly doubling the funding of mission for the future.
These are important steps forward that we are excited about as leaders. Please come ready to discuss some things that you are excited about concerning the future of our presbytery and some thoughts that you might have for us to pursue as we seek to follow God's leading together.