2017 has indeed been an important year in the life of the Presbyterian Church with the number 300 having deep significance. The Presbytery of Philadelphia royally celebrated its 300th anniversary on October 7th with a special worship service held at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. This year The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is also celebrating 300 years of care for ministers and other church workers. Similarly, The Synod of the Trinity commemorates the 300th year of its initial meeting at First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia on September 17, 1717. The Synod serves as the link to 16 presbyteries in the eastern region – 14 in Pennsylvania, 1 in western Ohio and 1 in West Virginia.
Each year the Synod holds its annual Commissioners’ Assembly meeting at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College, PA. This year’s meeting took place Sunday evening, October 22nd, to Tuesday Noon on October 24th. Each Presbytery sends 2 elected Synod commissioners who serve as the liaisons. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Presbyteries are afforded 3 commissioners for racial ethnic equality. The Rev. Sue Wonderland serves as the Interim Executive along with her staff of 5.
Others present at the Assembly meeting from the Presbytery of Philadelphia were: the Stated Clerk, Rev. Kevin Porter; The Rev. Dr. Allison Seed, representing the Board of Pensions, and Grace Marable, Coordinator for Social Justice, from the Presbyterian Women USA.
This year’s gathering began with a special Sunday evening worship service. A bagpiper provided the opening musical piece.
The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, present Coordinator for the Self Development of People, PCUSA, and past head of staff at Oak Lane Presbyterian in Philadelphia, was our keynote presenter for the gathering that focused on listening and visioning for moving forward. Prior to the assembly Synod commissioners were asked to meet with their Presbyteries’ leadership team/council and discuss the walls that divide us within our communities, churches, presbyteries, regions (Synod) and the PCUSA. Possible topics for discussion at the annual upcoming Spring regional gatherings were also requested. Building on the all- important action that 500 years ago precipitated the Protestant Reformation presbytery councils were asked what things they felt strongly enough about today to nail up on church doors for all to see. These responses were shared around tables, recorded and openly discussed throughout our time together.
A video greeting from The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson III, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PCUSA, offering the Synod 300th anniversary wishes was another highlight of the gathering.
Our time at State College also included a business meeting, spirited music, moving sermons, the partaking of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and interactive activities designed to help break down some of those various walls that often divide us. We also heard about the history of the Board of Pensions and some entertaining “little known facts,” from Rev. Allison Seed. Hearty meals and break-time snacks kept us energized throughout our time together.
The final evening each commissioner was given a memento, a 9” rectangular crested inscribed tray, to be given to their presbytery to commemorate the Synod’s 300 years of dedication to the region.
The 2017 annual meeting of the Synod of the Trinity left all attendees affirming its objective – “Being More Together, 300 (1717-2017) and Counting!”
by Madeline Valentine, Synod Commissioner from the Presbytery of Philadelphia