Time Away

A Letter to Pittsburgh Presbytery from
Rev. Brian Wallace
Associate Minister for Emerging Ministries &
Acting Head of Staff
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Time Away

I was made for the COVID-19 Pandemic and the wave of technology that came with it.  You see, I owned a small business that rented camera equipment for several years (ironically, until the end of 2019).  One of our most consistent customers was responsible for live-streaming local sporting events and for several years, I had worked closely with him in designing a setup from start to finish – from the camera to the network connection from the facility.  I had gone over every step of it with him year after year to ensure it would work while making upgrades and tweaks along the way.  So, when March 2020 came along, I was set. I jumped into action and hosted a webinar on “Live Streaming for the Long Haul,” which, to this day, is the third-most watched video on our YouTube page.  Working from home, I dove head-first into the world of Zoom meetings, helping congregations live stream, etc.  I even went as far as to dust off my old computational modeling skills and started posting COVID-19 positive test numbers and projections.

At first, I was having a blast.  These two worlds of mine had collided in an incredibly fun way.  But, by the beginning of May, I realized I was growing sick of my upstairs home office.  I missed seeing people.  I missed being with people.  I even missed that tired feeling I got after a bigger event.  And for me, as a slight introvert, that was saying something.  Little did I know, it would be almost two years before I truly felt like I was interacting with and seeing other people in a way that felt at all normal.

From the beginning of scripture, one thing is abundantly clear: We were meant to be in community with one another.  Within the Christian community, we refer to these as covenant relationships, where we are bound together by more than just our personal choice and preference but by a shared calling to actively participate in the mission of the Triune God in the world.

If those words sound familiar (and for most of they probably do), they’re especially significant for us in this season of ministry together, as they’re central parts of our purpose statement: Pittsburgh Presbytery is a covenant community of Jesus Christ that exists to assist and support the witness of our congregations and members as we actively participate in the mission of the Triune God in the world.

This week (Monday-Tuesday), the Presbytery staff was away from the office for our staff retreat.  On the one hand, that seems silly – we share an office!  Why did we need to take time away in a different place to spend time with the same people we work with all the time?  Because you can be physically present with one another and not actually engage with one another.  But, when you shift the meeting place, it allows you to engage with one another intentionally.  It’s that intentional time – the making time for and shifting to a different space – that allows people who work together all the time to work together in ways that aren’t possible within our regular office setting.

We spent the better part of two days doing what you’d normally do on a staff retreat, but at least as valuable was the time we spent not doing “work stuff.”  We gathered around the table during meals and stayed up playing board games late into the evening on Monday.

As I drove home on Monday, completely exhausted after having been part of two retreats back to back, I was reminded how important having intentional time together, both formal and informal, is for people in covenant relationship with one another.

As we look ahead into 2024, there will be numerous opportunities for us as a covenant community to be together.  Beyond our regular Presbytery meetings, we’ve got specific gatherings and trainings for leaders (not just pastors) and a visit from our ministry partners in Malawi and South Sudan in May.  And we’re open to exploring new ideas for gathering as well.  Just last week, I was talking with one of our pastors, and we came up with the idea of doing a round table discussion for churches with preschools.  If you’ve got an idea for a gathering, let one of the staff know!

It’s my hope and prayer that we would find ways, both familiar and new, for us to gather together for times of intentional fellowship with one another in order that we might be mutually encouraged by one another.

In Christ,

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