Minutes In Brief For January 31, 2017 Stated Meeting

JANUARY 31, 2017

With the call to order and opening prayer by Moderator Bill Teague (Teaching Elder, Langhorne), the Presbytery of Philadelphia officially launched the celebration of its 300th Anniversary year. The perspective such a milestone evokes could be seen throughout the day as things traditional and those novel found expression alongside each other, giving voice to who and whose we are in such a time and place as this.
The two pre-Presbytery offerings continued conversations surrounding the November meeting. Rev. Jesse Garner (Philadelphia, First) led an overview of the new Directory for Worship, in response to commissioners’ requests last meeting for interpretation of this revision to a section of our denomination’s constitution, the Book of Order. The other event was a panel discussion facilitated by Moderator Teague entitled, “A Conversation: Church, Culture, and our Counter-Cultural Call.” Panelists Rev. Ryan Balsan (Ambler, First), Candidate Christopher Holland II (New Spirit), Rev. Cynthia Jarvis (Chestnut Hill), and Rev. Ethelyn Taylor (Oxford) shared their perspectives on whether the shifting cultural context exemplified in the presidential election has impacted how they communicate the gospel.

After our hosts served us lunch, Moderator Teague invited us to come to the sanctuary a few minutes early for the premier screening of a video commissioned for the 300th Anniversary. Associate Presbyter Rev. Greg Klimovitz, who served as a producer for the video, introduced the piece which highlighted the ministries of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and the First African Presbyterian Church as examples of congregations embodying our theme, “Born in Faith, Rooted in Grace, Living into Hope.”

As the meeting got underway, Vice-Moderator Dr. Janel Dixon (Cedar Park) and Rev. Sandy Hull (Grace, Jenkintown) offered a joint welcome on behalf of the two host congregations, noting both congregations were “birthed from the same branch of the family tree,” as Grace begat the Calvary, Wyncote congregation, which later begat Cedar Park. In recent years, the two pastors have led their congregations into a rich urban-suburban relationship encompassing many aspects of their ministries including pulpit exchanges, mission initiatives, leadership training, and a planned joint excursion to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.

With the approval of the docket and consent agenda, commissioners approved the sale of the real estate which housed the former First Presbyterian Church in Willow Grove by the First Presbyterian Church of Warminster (i.e., the congregation formed as the merger of the Warminster Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian of Willow Grove congregations). Next, Stated Clerk, Rev. Kevin Porter reported having received a letter from the Session of the Narberth Presbyterian Church asking to be graciously dismissed with their property to the Coalition of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO).
On behalf of the Bills and Overtures Committee, Rev. Cindy Jarvis (Chestnut Hill) presented the Committee’s recommendations concerning the amendments to the Book of Order approved by the 222nd General Assembly (Portland, 2016), including a revised Directory for Worship. Commissioners concurred with the Committee’s recommendations, approving all the amendments.

Ruling Elder Wanda McNeill (Oxford), moderator of the Committee on Representation (CoR) interpreted CoR’s mission and the Presbytery’s accomplishments and ongoing challenges in maximizing the opportunities for our commissions and committees to reflect the diversity of our membership. Elder McNeill noted the increased participation of racial ethnic and young adults within our structures as both a reason to celebrate and encouragement to redouble our efforts to be intentional in inviting other under-represented constituencies to take their place at the table.

Moderator Teague took the occasion of his final report on behalf of the Leadership Collegium to direct commissioners’ attention to a handout chronicling the events marking the Presbytery’s year engaging the Conversation on Race, Bias, and Privilege. Noting how those discussions provided opportunities for relational ties to be strengthened across demographic differences, Moderator Teague introduced this year as one of Courageous Conversations, both deepening the themes from last year and widening them to include issues of immigration and cultural identity.

Although Executive Presbyter Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace would build on Moderator Teague’s comments in her report, she first called on Business Administrator Larry Davis (Ruling Elder, Ambler) to join her in leading us in celebration of Accounting Manager’s Andrea Cameron’s 20 years of service with the Presbytery of Philadelphia. As Ms. Cameron exited the sanctuary with a humble “thank you” to a standing ovation, Rev. Santana-Grace pivoted to her report.

Beginning with the acknowledgement of our 300th anniversary as a reference-point for understanding our corporate identity, Rev. Santana-Grace gave voice both to the complexity our members face in proclaiming the gospel in these times, as well as the faithfulness with which we stand as an incarnation of a diverse body of Christ. As a demonstration of gratitude, and to help us see each other as she sees us, Rev. Santana-Grace invited us to stand – those serving congregations, those in chaplaincies, counselors, non-profit administrators, validated ministers – all who have answered the call to serve in Christ’s name. We were then encouraged to look around at our colleagues in ministry as Ruth gave thanks for the honor of serving alongside us.

The Presbytery then transitioned into a worship service highlighted by:
Seven reflections on “Seven Words of Light,” a “reverse-Tenebrae” service in which teaching elders Bill Teague, Joyce Shin (Swarthmore), Randy Barge (Olney, First), Leah Miller (Anchor), Adan Mairena (West Kensington Ministry and Yeadon), John Willingham (Doylestown), and Aisha Brooks-Lytle (Wayne) expounded on passages from the Old and New Testament calling us to be people of the Light;

  • The installation of Rev. Dr. Janel Dixon and Ruling Elder Linda Rutkosky (Doylestown) as Moderator and Vice-Moderator respectively of the Presbytery of Philadelphia;
  • A time of thanksgiving and presentation of a wooden Presbyterian cross to outgoing Moderator Bill Teague.
  • The remembrance of the ruling and teaching elders of the Presbytery who joined the Church Triumphant in 2016
  • The celebration of the Lord’s Supper;
  • Special music featuring a joint choir of the Grace and Cedar Park congregations led by Ruling Elder Warren Cooper (Cedar Park).

Undergirded with a renewed sense of the Spirt among us, Moderator Dixon offered the charge to the Presbytery at worship and called us to order for the last report of our business meeting from the Commission on Preparation for Ministry and Membership, presented by its moderator, Rev. Ken Ross (East Falls). Rev. Ross introduced Candidate Christopher Holland (Cedar Park) to share his statement of faith and be examined for ordination. A child of the Presbytery of Philadelphia whose journey has brought him in relationship with congregations across the geographic, theological, and demographic range of the Presbytery, Chris has found a call with the New Spirit congregation (in partnership with the Wayne Presbyterian Church and the Common Place ministry), exemplary of the blending of tradition and innovation celebrated throughout the meeting.

After his examination for ordination was sustained, Candidate Holland’s plans for ordination were resoundingly approved. As representatives from Chris’s life came forward to bless his ministry, the commissioners voted to adjourn the meeting with the conclusion of Moderator Dixon’s prayer of thanksgiving and benediction.

There was great attendance with 6 Elder Officers, 1 General Assembly Commissioner, 80 Ruling Elder Commissioners, 103 Minister Members, 5 Corresponding Members and 83 Visitors present. The offering received to support the Great Ends Grants for Peacemaking ministries was $1,335. Please mark your calendars for the next Stated Meeting of the Presbytery which will be on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (time and location to be determined).

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin L. Porter, Stated Clerk