A New Design
This past year, after many reports, conversations, debates, meetings, surveys and lots of hard work by a small group of saints, the Presbytery of Philadelphia voted for a “New Design” of our life together. Representatives from the 200+ Presbyterian churches in the area re-organized and renamed committees, sadly ended programs and let go of staff, and imagined new ways of working together.
This New Design – like most re-organizations – was both forced upon us and freely chosen. The impetus for change was a drop in dues and mission giving from churches, as well as a New Form of Government, approved by Presbyteries across the country, that allowed for more local decision-making in both Presbyteries and congregations. This is not the first re-organization of the Presbytery and Philadelphia is not alone – Presbyteries around the country are in various degrees of upheaval as the PC(USA) deals with declining membership, infrastructure overhang from the last century, and new theological challenges and mission fields.
The most striking change in the New Design is that we’ll be meeting less often as a full Presbytery, and more often as regional commissions – smaller groups of diverse but geographically linked churches. Summit is in the Northwest Regional Commission, which includes not only our city neighbors (Oxford, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, Germantown Community, First Germantown, Oak Lane, Cedar Park, East Falls, and several Roxborough churches) but also Ambler, Church on the [Plymouth Meeting] Mall, Valley Forge, First Norristown and others. We’re having our first NW Regional meeting at Oxford Church on Sunday, June 2nd, from 3-5, and it will include worship, an introduction to the new design, and – most important – a potluck picnic. I’m on the leadership team of the Commission, and helped plan the event. All are welcome – not just clergy and elders. I think it will be interesting and energizing, as we pray, talk and eat together!
I think it’s fair to say we’re not sure where we’re going with the New Design. We’ll have to pray a lot and rely on the Spirit to guide us in the months and years ahead. But I’m excited about the chance to become better acquainted with other churches, and to explore ways we might work together. It’s an opportunity to step off our congregational islands, learn more about our Presbyterian neighbors, make friends, and – hopefully – strengthen our collective mission. A mission which remains constant no matter what the design: to worship the Lord with gladness, to proclaim the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ, to care for one another and nurture our children in faith, to work for justice and to serve “the least of these.”
There are many ways to get involved! Let me know if you’d like to learn more.
Grace and Peace,