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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

You Should Know....
May 5, 2016

In May, our 2016 presbytery prayer calendar calls us to uphold presbytery leaders in concerted prayer. I chose May for this prayer focus because each May I help facilitate a leadership development retreat for new presbytery leaders. In fact, I am writing this from a retreat center where some thirty presbytery leaders from around the country have gathered for this very purpose. Here we seek to develop their capacity for spiritual and administrative leadership alike. We encourage them to grow tenderer of heart and thicker of skin, in a role in which it is all too easy to develop the opposite: a hard heart and a thin skin.

Presbytery leadership, in many respects, is much like congregational leadership. Like pastors of churches, presbytery leaders are charged to lead the flock of God faithfully in word and deed, tending with special care those who are wounded, encouraging the faithful, equipping saints for the work of the ministry, and speaking truth in the face of lies and exploitation. But their work is different from congregational ministry in that it is not exercised week in and week out with a particular flock in which relationships are nurtured deeply over years.

Since most of you see your presbytery staff relatively seldom, I want to let you know a little bit about your staff that you may not otherwise know:

  1. They love Jesus, and are deeply dedicated to this ministry. They are doing it because they believe God has called them to it. It is way more than just a job to them.

  2. They long to do what is best for the congregations and pastors they serve. They will do all within their power to help them flourish, and grieve greatly when a congregation or a pastor struggles.

  3. They are themselves a strong spiritual community that gathers weekly for an hour of song, hearing the Word, and prayer. They pray intentionally in rotation for each of our congregations, ministers (including retirees), and mission partners, with special prayer for those facing pressing current needs.

  4. Their labors go on long after the five o’clock bell rings. Every one of them responds to urgent matters at all hours of the day, seven days a week.

  5. They love doing this work together. Like any family, they have their disagreements; but they are fully committed to stand shoulder to shoulder in working for the welfare of the presbytery as it proclaims the Gospel.

  6. They enjoy playing together. Each summer they take a day to go off-site and play together, and each Christmas season they gather with the Crestfield staff at Tammy’s and my home for a day of games, good food, hearty singing, and all-around fun. The leadership team meets in retreat each fall.

When one of us suffers, we all suffer. Over the past year we have suffered with our esteemed colleague Lana, as she has undergone extended medical treatment. Her spirit and her work have continued strong, even as her body has been taxed. At the end of this month, after forty-two years serving our presbytery with immense intelligence, dedication, and love, she will be reluctantly stepping away from our office in order to focus her energy more fully on her medical treatments. To say that our staff and presbytery will miss her deeply is a monumental understatement. We will move forward; so will Lana. We will certainly call on her often, as she is our major carrier of institutional memory. But we will have a big hole in our hearts, as well as in our work, when she leaves.

I know many of you have been praying for Lana much. Keep the prayers coming! Pray also for us as we begin the impossible task of finding her replacement. Please contact Carla Campbell or me if you would like to learn more about this work, or would like to nominate someone for consideration.

By all means, pray for all presbyteries and their leaders. But please pray especially for ours! We need your prayers more than we can say, more than we even know.

Grateful for your prayers,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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