February Transition Updates
Acting Head of Staff
Since Sheldon’s retirement became official, many people have asked me, “So, how are things at Presbytery office?” The truth is that they’re pretty much the same. Bible study and staff meetings are happening every week. COM Clearances are being conducted. CPM, EC, and COM continue to meet on their regular schedule, and today we’ll have a Presbytery meeting, just like we have every February in recent years. The main reason for the seamless start has been the competency and length of tenure of our staff, and together we have kept things moving along. We’re all doing some new things and learning some new things, but by and large, the transition thus far has been as smooth as could be expected and hoped for. For each of my colleagues and the gifts they bring to this season, I am deeply grateful.
That being said, there are some new things happening.
Welcome Louise – We recently welcomed the Rev. Louise Rogers as our Temporary Associate Minister. Louise comes to the staff from Westminster Presbyterian Church, where she served as the Associate Pastor, and previously she served the John McMillan, Beechview, and Peters Creek congregations. Her primary area of focus will be supporting our pastors and our congregations in transition. You can find out more about Louise by watching the introductory video, and her contact information is listed on the staff page of the website.
Branch Re-Assignments – With Louise’s arrival to the staff, we’ve shifted some branch assignments. Louise will serve as the primary Presbytery staff person for pastors and congregations in the South Branch, Ralph will fill the same role for the West and North Branch, and I will fill that role for the East Branch. (Not sure what branch you’re located in; check our website to find out)
Special Nominating Committee – At today’s Presbytery meeting, we anticipate electing the following nine individuals to serve on the General Minister Special Nominating Committee.
Rev. Dr. Hunter Farrell (Validated—PTS)
Rev. Dr. Brian Janssen (Bethany)
Ruling Elder Anita Perry (Riverview)
Ruling Elder Mark Roth (East Liberty)
Ruling Elder Anthony (Bucky) Savatt (Ken Mawr)
Rev. Austin Shelley (Shadyside)
Rev. Laura Strauss (Sunset Hills)
Rev. Gavin Walton (Grace Memorial)
Ruling Elder Lauren Wolcott (Hot Metal)
The next order of business will be for this team to meet with our Synod Executive, Rev. Forrest Claassen, for their orientation.
Landscape Study – In November and December of 2022, members of the Presbytery were encouraged to fill out the Landscape Study, a survey-based assessment specifically designed for mid-councils offered by Holy Cow Consulting. To say people responded to this encouragement would be an understatement! Four hundred survey responses were received, which well surpasses even my most optimistic goal (which was 300). On March 7th, the Executive Committee of the Presbytery and members of the General Minister Nominating Committee will receive the report and the interpretation from Holy Cow Consulting. And at the May meeting of Presbytery, a similar presentation will be given to the whole body as part of the meeting. I believe that the results of this report will be extremely helpful as we discern our next steps as a Presbytery during this leadership transition.
Transition Plans – On March 19th and 20th, the Executive Committee and the Leadership Staff will gather for their annual retreat at Crestfield, and they will be joined by Rev. Claassen in his role as Synod Executive. At this gathering, with the Landscape Study results in hand, the Executive Committee will begin determining what steps we are being called to take during this leadership transition.
As a side note, I’ve referenced the Executive Committee a couple of times in this article and have had people ask me what exactly the Executive Committee is. The shortest and simplest answer is that their role correlates most closely to that of a Session for a congregation, as they are responsible for overseeing the Presbytery’s finances, property, personnel, and ecclesiastical affairs.
Judges 19 Exegesis Exam – As some of you may have heard, there was a considerable discussion on social media and within PC(USA) circles regarding the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee’s (PCC) selection of Judges 19 as the text for the Winter 2023 Exegesis Exam. Since the close of the exam period, I have contacted the individuals under the care of our Presbytery who took the exam. Also, I reviewed the assigned question in full and participated in a meeting with 120 mid-council leaders from around the country (Presbytery Executives, Stated Clerks, and CPM Representatives) with representatives from the PCC. Earlier this week, I submitted a letter to the PCC sharing some of my concerns about the selection of Judges 19. If anyone has questions about this issue or other matters related to the ordination exam process, I would be happy to discuss them further.
It is fitting, I believe, that we are at this stage in our leadership transition as we approach the season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. As we begin this journey during lent, I pray that we will reflect carefully on who and what Jesus is calling us to in this season in the places that we serve – within the life of our church communities, our Presbytery, our greater community, and our world.