A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
How We Gather
September 19, 2019
Today we meet as a presbytery, our annual pilgrimage to the beautiful Crestfield Camp and Conference Center near Slippery Rock. We have settled into an annual rhythm of four distinctively different presbytery meetings, for which attendees have given high marks. The first meeting of the year happens on a February afternoon at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, featuring a vibrant celebration of Black History Month. The Spring meeting is held in one of our churches over dinner. In December we meet for an afternoon at another church, and it is shaped around the Advent season. Today we have our Fall meeting at Crestfield, about which I say more below.
I am grateful for how our Ecclesiastical Committee has reshaped our presbytery meetings over the past few years, bringing us more variety, and thereby new vitality in the meetings. If you haven’t attended recently, you might be pleasantly surprised at how they feel these days!
Our September presbytery meetings at Crestfield have several unique attributes:
This is the one meeting at which presbytery gathers at the Lord’s Table
This is the one meeting that begins in the morning and continues into mid-afternoon
This is the one meeting where we have extended opportunity to talk to each other
This is the one meeting where people who wish to stay outdoors can do so
This is the one meeting where we share our recent mission engagement stories
This is the one meeting where we stop to remember ministers and elders who have died
This is the one meeting that all of us have a long trip to reach
Until recently, this has been the one meeting at which presbytery gathers at the dinner table
The last point is worth further reflection. Because we have so much enjoyed sitting at table together at Crestfield, we are now including dinner in our Spring meetings as well. Table fellowship has been a critical component of Christianity from its beginning, reflecting our Lord Jesus’ practice of doing much of his ministry seated at the dinner table. As he prepared to leave his disciples, he instructed them to recognize the dinner table as the Lord’s Table, with words of blessing and consecration over the bread and wine.
Early in my tenure in Pittsburgh Presbytery, I lamented in my September presbytery packet cover letter that this meeting was the only time all year we sat at table together as a presbytery. I am delighted that the pattern is now different – we eat together not just at one meeting out of six, but at two out of four. Perhaps we do so because we enjoy each other’s company more, but it goes the other way as well – we come to enjoy one another’s company more when we eat together. I celebrate that the spirit in our meetings is warmer today than it has been in many years.
Presbytery meetings include many additional components: Worship. Business. Elections. Examinations. Testimony. Appeals. Instruction. The feature of our meetings that I hear appreciated most, however, is never on the agenda: Fellowship. It’s simply the delight of being together, of doing things together. Like eating a meal or communing at the Lord’s Table. I love the buzz I hear as we gather. At Crestfield, the fun of connecting with each other takes a good number of presbyters out of the business hall into the beautiful outdoors, so we plant PA speakers outside so people can enjoy fellowship amid God’s beautiful creation while also tracking with the meeting.
If fellowship is a blessing to you, our annual Crestfield presbytery meeting is the perfect place for you. I look forward to seeing you there, if you can make it. If you can’t, I hope you can find some of these benefits it offers in other ways: Gather with ministry colleagues, perhaps just for a cup of coffee or a shared meal and a prayer. Share with friends in ministry some of the good things God has been doing in and through your congregation. And by all means, enjoy the outdoors, wherever you are!
Your companion in Christian fellowship,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister