Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Experiencing Awe and Fostering It in Others

Susan Beaumont, a senior consultant with the Alban Institute, shares in her newest article research on the benefits of the human experience of awe and reflects on ways of fostering awe in people.  See the article here:   http://www.susanbeaumont.com/2017/07/18/disappointed-in-your-followers-try-cultivating-awe/  Beaumont writes how awe is inspired by beauty.  Experiences of awe draw us out of ourselves, cause us to pause to take notice and recognize we are but a small part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Overlook at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore
Awe is what draws us to visit National Parks this time of year.  They are national treasures.  Over the years, I've visited many of them.  Whether it is watching Old Faithful at Yellowstone in Wyoming; standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and trying to comprehend what eyes see; hiking trails at Zion in Utah; taking in the grandeur of Yosemite in California; driving in dizzying high altitudes of Glacier in Montana, and Rocky Mountain in Colorado; sitting by a campfire in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, or being socked in the fog at Acadia in Maine, something special happens deep in us at these places. Here in Michigan, we have the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Standing on the top of Sleeping Bear dune and looking out over Lake Michigan recalibrates perspective.

It was ten years ago when I sensed God calling me to something new.  It was about this time of year when I first learned about the Presbytery of Lake Michigan and its search for a general presbyter.  Part of a new call includes the grief work for what is being left behind.  I wrestled with my attachments to the Montauk Community Church, the community and friends there, whom I loved. There was for me the added grief of leaving the awe inspiring landscape there.  To be blunt, who doesn't love a water view?  I had the extraordinary privilege and honor to serve that oceanside fishing, resort community.  They provided me with a manse with a ocean view! With a five minute walk to the beach!!  With an ocean view from my church office desk!!!  They paid me to live there!!!!  What can I say?  Yet, after eleven years of ministry there, God had something new in mind for me.  And the Presbytery has kept me busy enough ever since not to think too much about it.

Life is not all a mountaintop experience.  God calls us forth to serve.  However, my experience in Montauk taught me about awe.  Unless one is spiritually dead, no one enters Montauk without experiencing a sense of awe.  When one drives into this village from the west on Montauk Highway, all of a sudden an ocean view opens before your eyes.  The universal response of residents and visitors alike is a wonderful sense of awe, joy, peace...recalibration.  Getting to Montauk takes some effort, can be tiring and frustrating.  All that instantly evaporates.  You say to yourself, "OK, this is why I'm here."

During my tenure in Montauk, I had the chance to visit Iona.  I learned there the Celtic concept for this. They call it "a thin place where the distance between heaven and earth is tissue thin."  This gave me language for what my Montauk neighbors knew instinctively and helped me connect with them.  Stricken by the natural beautiful of the place, I led vesper services during the summer at public overlooks where we marveled at the sunset over the water.  I led prayer walks on the hiking trails, stopping here and there to reflect on something we noticed and to break into song, giving thanks to God.  For two summers, I led a 7 a.m. Sunday service on a popular resort terrace overlooking the Atlantic.  With the financial help of the Presbytery, I invited Dennis Dewey, a gifted Biblical story teller to come for a week.  We set him up at various public places where he told water and fish stories from the Bible.  The magic draw of the storyteller attracted a crowd at each site.  At the Lighthouse he led us responsively with Psalm 136, the crowd responding with the refrain, "for his steadfast love endures forever."  At the harbor docks he told the story of Jonah and the call of Peter, Andrew, John and James.   On the beach he told the story of the risen Jesus making breakfast for the disciples.  At the village green, the story of feeding of the five thousand.

What moves you in awe?  How do you foster the experience of awe in others?  Please do read Susan Beaumont's article and be blessed.
http://www.susanbeaumont.com/2017/07/18/disappointed-in-your-followers-try-cultivating-awe/
And have an awe filled "Awegust."
John







Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stories of Welcome

Rev. Dr. Leanne VanDyk
WELCOME was the theme of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan's June 13th meeting hosted by the Buchanan Presbyterian Church.  Dr. Leanne VanDyk, a member of Presbytery serving as president of Columbia Theological Seminary,  challenged us with Paul's charge to the Church in Rome, "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Romans 15:7).  However, the work of welcome is not as easy as it sounds.  It has backbone and substance to it.  The Apostle Paul then gives greetings to a long list of names in chapter 16.  Leanne then unpacked the stories underlying Paul's greetings. stories which the first hearers would have recognized as the hard work of reaching across the aisle.  Some of relationships were probably as complex as the ones in our lives. We are called to welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you to the glory of God, especially when it is hard.

Then Dr. Doug Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University, and elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, shared with us the history, contextual need, and the theological grounding for interfaith engagement and dialogue.  He described six steps of interfaith engagement: tolerance, hospitality, understanding, respect, acceptance, holy envy.  He related these steps to the stages of human development: baby (tolerance), young child (hospitality), preteen (understanding), adolescence (respect), adult (acceptance), and children as parents (holy envy).   He shared the story of Grand Rapids' recent interfaith initiatives and examples of what congregations can do, such as the "Pieces for Peace" Project of the First Presbyterian Church in Holland.  Women of various faiths who were concerned for peace gathered this winter and made squares for a larger quilt, as a joint witness for peace.  The spiritual challenge is, can we recognize God's image in someone who is not like us?  If you are interested in receiving copy of Dr. Kindschi's powerpoint file, email him at kindschd@gvsu.edu  and he will be happy to share it with you.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance of PMA announces June 20th, World Refugee Day in the following link:  http://pda.pcusa.org/page/world-refugee-day/  #WeChooseWelcome is a rallying call from Presbyterians across the U.S. expressing their commitment to welcome refugees of all nationalities and faiths.  Several of our congregations are sponsoring refugees:  First Presbyterian Churches in Holland, Kalamazoo, Jackson, and Westminster in Grand Rapids.  They all have welcome stories to tell.  

We welcomed Rev. Amber Nettleton, the new pastor at Pine Island Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo.  She comes to us from the Presbytery of Cascades and is the daughter-in-law of Rev. Doug Nettleton.  We welcomed Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon, the new lead pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Grand Haven.  We welcomed Rev. Deborah McCreary, who is serving Benton Harbor, First during Rev. Laurie Hartzell's sabbatical.  We welcomed Rev. Deborah Semon-Scott, an Episcopal colleague serving as interim pastor for Coldwater, First.  We examined and welcomed candidate Christina "Chrissy" Westberry, to her new call as associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo.  Welcome to this ministry!  We also heard from inquirer Austin Wicks, the son of Revs. Mike and Sally Wicks, and moved him to candidacy.  Austin has just graduated from Louisville Theological Seminary and is seeking a field placement during his candidacy year.

Vice Moderator, Rev. Karen Kelley
Vice moderator Rev. Karen Kelley reported five core values identified by the Leadership Team:  "As Partners in Christ's Service, we seek God's way of grace, through inclusion, formation, and inspiration."  In a brochure description of inclusion it states, "The Presbytery seeks in all its work to open the circle wide, to practice extravagant hospitality, to reach out to those who are not represented at the table, and to have respect and mutual forbearance toward one another.  Core values are both current and aspirational.

The Buchanan Church hosted our meeting.  The members greeted us, helped us find parking, met us at the door, fed us.  The air conditioning in the sanctuary was a gift on a 90 degree day!

Hesperia Presbyterian Church's New Entrance
 Finally, on June 8th, it was my joy to represent the Presbytery, along with Rev. Paul Tomlinson and elder Robert MacCord, members of the Committee on Ministry, at Hesperia Presbyterian Church's dedication service for their new addition.  This addition provides a new covered entrance, with elevator and three accessible restrooms on two floors.  It blends seamlessly with the rest of the building.   Old matching stained glass windows which had been removed from the bell tower years ago were found in storage and incorporated in the addition.  Rev. Tomlinson led a Presbytery Listening Team for the Hesperia congregation in the spring of 2015 when the Session and congregation wrestled with the PC(USA)'s understanding of marriage.  The Listening Team's survey of the congregation showed that a large majority of members wanted to remain.  Paul later moderated the Session until Rev. Calvin (Cal) Bremer was engaged as Hesperia's pastor.  Looking to their future, one of the first decisions of the Session with Paul was to address their accessibility need.  Through this capital project, the congregation says to itself and the community, "We are here to stay. WELCOME!"
Rev. Paul Tomlinson with Elder

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Growing Younger": Book Review

There is no greater concern in the church than the desire to attract younger families.  The Pentecost Special Offering of the PC(USA) is designated for Youth Ministries.  In 2016, this offering totaled $717,572.  The congregations of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan gave $11,572 in 2016, 40% of which remained to support ministry in the local church and 60% to the PC(USA) in support of the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, Montreat Youth Conferences, etc.  Please support this offering.

Our Presbytery Resource Center just purchased the book "Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to help Young People Discover and Love Your Church" by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin of the Fuller Youth Institute.  This book addresses the church's challenge.  After a four year project researching 250 congregations with effective ministries with young people, they identify 10 commonly held myths, and offer six strategies.

Debunking the Myths, 10 Qualities your Church does NOT need in order to Grow Young:
  1.  A precise size:  There is no correlation between church size and effectiveness.
  2. A trendy location or region:  Location does not have to be a limitation.
  3. An exact age:  New start up churches can be effective, but research shows just as much life change, in churches with a history.   
  4. A popular denomination...or lack of denomination.  "God is working through churches of all stripes."        
  5. An off-the-chart cool quotient.  Some do have a hip factor, but "for young people today, relational warmth is the new cool."
  6. A big, modern building:  "For teenagers and young adults, feeling at home transcends any building."
  7. A big budget:  "A small budget does not have to mean small impact."
  8. A "contemporary" worship service.  "While the churches we visited were likely to prefer modern worship in some or all their worship contexts, they didn't depend on that alone as a magnet to draw young people."
  9. A watered-down teaching style.  "For today's young people, growing young doesn't mean we talk about Jesus or the cost following him any less."
  10. A hyper-entertaining ministry program. "Faith communities offer something different," than entertainment, "Slick is no guarantee of success."
Six Strategies:  Their research has lead to six core commitments, around which this book is organized with a chapter on each of the following strategies:
  1. Unlock keychain leadership.  "Instead of centralizing authority, empower others--especially young people."
  2. Empathize with today's young people. "Instead of judging or criticizing, step into the shoes of this generation."
  3. Take Jesus' message seriously.  "Instead of asserting formulaic gospel claims, welcome young people into a Jesus' centered way of life."  
  4. Feel a warm community. "Instead of focusing on cool worship or programs, aim for warm peer and intergenerational friendships."
  5. Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere.  "Instead of giving lip service to how much young people matter, look for creative ways to tangibly support, resource, and involve them in all facets of your congregation."
  6. Be the best neighbors. "Instead of condemning the world outside your walls, enable young people to neighbor well locally and globally."
This is not rocket science.  It's basic relationship building, discipling 101.  It's about nurturing intentional relationships, paying attention, listening, understanding, empathy, caring, empowering, living kingdom values, discipling, walking the walking.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Practice and Pursuit of Community

“We believe that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation of the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought; one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain… We believe that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways:  that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another."  
                                                   Excerpt from the Confession of Belhar

Our brothers and sisters in Christ in South Africa professed unity and community as essentials to the life of the church.  They did so during apartheid law.  Their witness was theological:  our unity is a gift of God in Jesus Christ.  And it was deeply political:  the state and church at that time institutionalized overt and tacit rules which separated persons by race and subjugated people of color, which they boldly named sin and contrary to God’s will.  In 2016, the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted and added the Confession of Belhar to the Book of Confessions, part one the PC(USA)’s Constitution.

So this Lenten Season, I've been reading with my family after dinner "Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar,” edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim.  In it, Mihee Kim-Kort writes, "In light of Belhar and these words in particular--'that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another'--perhaps these are the appropriate practices of the church because that is the flesh-and-blood reality--we practice community.  We deliberately and intentionally practice giving ourselves to one another because we realize we belong to each other.  We need each other.  We are inextricably tied together.  We pursue this unity like a brutal physical regimen.  It is not something we come by perfectly, all at once.  It is terribly messy, awkward, and fully human.  In many ways, it brings out our deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities if we are doing it faithfully and hopefully."  (p. 19)

We are “community” challenged in America today!  We are very much mired in the “messy, awkward,” practice of community in Washington DC, Lansing, and other state capitals.  And the values fought over there are represented in most every congregation. A core value of the American culture is independence, individualism, self-reliance.  Ironically, our frontier pioneer forbearers also knew the value of a good neighbor, of a helping hand in a barn raising, of a Friday night dance social, and gathering for worship on Sunday.  They walked, rode horseback and in horse drawn wagons and buggies to do so.  Pursuing community was an effort and a gift.  

Community/Individualism or shall we say Independence/Interdependence is another one of those polarities about which we have been taught.  You never get rid of a true polarity.  There is truth and value in both.  One can’t thrive without the other.  There is an upside and a downside to both.  An overemphasis of one typically causes fear and alarm from the other.  Today in America we are unfortunately experiencing the spiralling downside of this polarity.  Effective leaders recognize and manage polarities calming fears and pointing to the upside value of each.    

We are also “community” challenged today in the church, in our Presbytery.  Differences which separate get close inspection and are emotionally charged, while the ties that bind fray.  Congregational participation is voluntary.  What does being a member of Presbytery mean?  The Leadership Team of the Presbytery I serve is working to discern our core values, values which will drive use in our goal setting and strategic God desired outcomes.  The Belhar lifts up such a core value, “the experience, practice and pursuit of community.”

Shannon Johnson Keershner writes “I keep hoping to persuade folks that difference does not have to equal division and unity does not have to equal uniformity.  I have frequently appealed to our ‘unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ I have preached that we have been made the one body of Christ, and God did not ask our opinion before God did it.  Therefore, it really does not matter if we like one another or not, (though we usually do!).  I always emphasize that we belong to each other because in Christ Jesus, we belong to God! …..Belhar’s central conviction that God has made us one—regardless of, actually in celebration of, our difference—is always central for me.”  (p. 22)


However we name it, one of our core values must be the experience, practice and pursuit of community.  Surely community is linked in a larger polarity with individualism.  But as inhaling is linked with exhaling, one not being sustainable alone for long by itself, but together combine for life giving breathing, so too, I believe, God joins the individual and community join together for blessed living!  

Thanks be to God, unity is a gift we have in Jesus Christ.  And community, however messy, awkward and which often triggers our deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities, is also our obligation to pursue.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 11th Presbytery Meeting Summary and Resources

The Presbytery of Lake Michigan meets four times each year.  We met for our first meeting this year on Saturday, March 11th.  Minister members of Presbytery and commissioners from our congregations gathered at the Westminster Presbyterian Church.  Please find here highlights and links to some documents and resources shared at that meeting.

 The Rev. Sarah Schmidt-Lee preached a powerful message at worship!  Find the text of her sermon here:  Sermon: Do We Believe This Is Good News?   Following worship Professor George Barfield led us in a second conversation on race.  He is a retired sociology professor for Ethnic and Race Relations who taught at Indiana University and Lake Michigan College, a Deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Benton Harbor, and now lives in Spring Lake, Mi. Here is his power point Barfield Conversation on Race PowerPoint.  He presented a You Tube Video clip from the ABC's TV show "What Would You Do? which you can see here:  Bike Thief    Each congregation was given a copy of Debbie Irving's book, "Waking Up White, And Finding Myself in the Story of Race." Reverends Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, the 222nd General Assembly co-moderators, have called the PC(USA) to a denomination wide study of this book, which introduces white privilege and prepared a book study guide written by provided by the Office of the General Assembly:  Waking Up White Study Guide   Our Church Growth Committee has purchased a copy of this book for every congregation in the Presbytery.  The book was distributed at the Presbytery Meeting.  Read it, share it, discuss it.   Other recent resources provided by the Office of the General Assembly on addressing race can be found here:  Office of the General Assembly Resources  Rev. Denise Anderson is scheduled to preach and present at the September 13th Presbytery Meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson.

During the business plenary Presbytery voted on amendments to the PC(USA) Constitution sent to us by the 222nd General Assembly.  All the amendments were approved by our Presbytery except for two: 16 D 1 and 2  relating to the Relationship to the PC(USA) of a Person Who Has Renounced Jurisdiction of the Church while under a disciplinary investigation.  Most significantly we voted to approve a revised Directory for Worship.  If passed by a majority of presbyteries, it will replace the existing Directory for Worship.  We now wait to see how other Presbyteries will vote.  Presbytery also passed a resolution statement to be sent to the President of the United States concerning his recent executive order on refugees. See it here: Resolution Letter to the President

Presbytery is often a mystery to people.  In order to interpret the mission of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, I have asked Presbytery committee and ministry team leaders to prepare reports of their work in 2016 on our behalf.  Please find that year end consolidated report at this link:  PLM 2016 Annual Report  Find a scripted powerpoint prepared by the Office of the General Assembly explaining Per Capita, tweaked for the Presbytery of Lake Michigan here:  PerCapita Powerpoint  These resources will remain available on the Presbytery's web site:  http://lakemichiganpresbytery.org/  Our website is now functioning more efficiently.  I have contracted Roosien Communications, Inc. for upgrading the site.  It will soon have a new look and organization!

"The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage, and equip worshiping communities of faith to make disciples of Jesus Christ with the gifts God gives them."  Please help your pastor and elder commissioner share and use these resources to assist your congregation's witness to Jesus Christ in our world today.

Yours in Christ
John Best, General Presbyter

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bold and Brave

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.  Do not be ashamed, therefore of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace."  
1 Timothy 1:7-9

Pastors have a difficult task.  It's hard to open one's mouth these days in preaching the gospel and not get criticized for being political.  Call people to host refugees and one hears that isn't safe, it's too dangerous, too political!  Maybe so, but Jesus and the holy family were political refugees who fled the wrath of Herod.  They sojourned to Egypt until Herod's death.  Thank God that they found shelter. It's the sacred story being lived out today.  We meet Christ in the refugee.  Preach about hospitality and the welcome of the stranger, stand with frightened undocumented immigrants and one hears "That's political!"  Actually that's the fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy...you and the alien resident in your towns." (Exodus 20:8-11).  Hospitality is also embedded in the Torah's many laws.  "When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:33-34). Preach about the importance of honesty and the value of speaking the truth and the danger of illusion or alternative facts.  Expect some recoil!  Actually, that's the ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16).  The wisdom in the Torah, the law, provide a foundation for living together in community.  Then there is the teaching of Jesus. If you preach "love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you."  "Oh, pastor, that's just too hard, the wounds are too raw."  True.  Yet this is the clear teaching of Jesus whom we profess to follow (Matthew 5:43-48). Encourage forbearance, perseverance and forgiveness when you are treated unjustly.  When retaliation is the default position, how does that go?  Yet, the earliest epistle concludes, "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all" (1 Thessalonians 5:15).  That's kind of who we are.  The Amish community of Nickel Mines in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina reminded us of that as they gave their witness in the aftermath of tragic devastating mass killings in their communities.  Challenge the criminal justice system in America today which holds the highest number of prisoners per capita of any country in the world, and that the percentage of persons of color imprisoned in our country far out number their percentage in the population.  And for goodness sakes, when advocating for the poor at the expense of the rich sounds like a political ploy???  What does one preach, then, when our Lord shared his call to ministry with Isaiah's words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19)  Let us be reminded that Jesus' sermon in his hometown synagogue didn't go well either (Luke 4:29).

Fellow pastors, priests, prophet--proclaim the good news of the gospel!  Receive grace, love your people, show mercy, have compassion, walk humbly, do justice, speak the truth, and you will be keenly relevant to all the day's issues.  Be bold and brave!

Here is a link to theological conversations and periodic essays in this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.     http://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/theological-conversations-launches-yearlong-celebration-reformation-500/    This series begins with Laura Cheifetz's essay "Theology and Bravery."  https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/TheologicalConversations_TheologyBravery.pdf  She inspired the title of this blog post and this reflection.



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Language of Strategic Visioning

The Presbytery of Lake Michigan's Leadership Team has committed to discerning what God is calling us to be and do.  There are some givens which ground us as Presbyterians. The Book of Order Foundation section speaks to our identity.  Chapter Three in our Form of Government addresses  Presbytery's assigned role and given tasks.  How we accomplish these is up to our creativity.  It is not the gospel which has changed necessitating this work.  Rather we have changed, society norms have changed.  Our ministry context is different than just 4 or 5 years ago.  Faithfulness witness to the gospel requires us to focus on most important things.

So on Thursday, January 12th, the Leadership Team and Presbytery staff shared a retreat day with Linda Badger Becker.  Linda just led the Presbytery of Western Reserve in this discernment work.  She led us in Bible Study, and gave us a common language of strategic visioning, which I am sharing here for all of us.

CORE VALUES:  Central priorities in Presbytery's culture;  who we are and what we care about drives priorities.  Values define HOW Presbytery will do what it does.  (See John 13:34-35 and G-3.-301, F-1.0302, and F-1.0304).  What are the core values you see which need to claim, or values to ground us as we engage our future?

MISSION:  Defines the purpose of the Presbytery;  WHY it exists;  WHAT it does;  WHO it does it for.  (See Matthew 28:18-20,  G-3.03).  Our purpose statement adopted in 2013 states:  "The purpose of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is to challenge, encourage and equip worshiping communities of faith to make disciples of Jesus Christ with the gifts God gives us."  

VISION:  Inspirational and aspirational; creates a mental image of the future of the Presbytery at its best.  (See Jeremiah 29:11)  At our best, what does God want us to look like in two or three years? What difference is God calling us to make together?

STRATEGY:  Setting realistic goals, determining actions and resources needed to achieve mission and realize vision.  HOW we propose to live into the vision.  (See Proverbs 4:26).

STRUCTURE:  Design through which the Presbytery's strategy for achieving mission and realizing vision is implemented.  Changes in strategy require changes in structure for successful implementation.  (See Mark 2:22, G-3.0106).

STAFFING:  Determining what professional help is needed to support the structure that implements the strategy that realizes the vision that achieves the mission.  (See G-3.0110)

DISCERNMENT requires open minds, open hearts, open wills tuned to not to our individual desires, but to God's will for us.  

This is the language of strategic visioning for any vital organization.  This is the work set before us.  We've done this before.  We've stumbled in recent years starting at the wrong end addressing staff needs and organizational structure thinking our core values, mission and vision were identified.  We delegated this work to various task forces.  This year, the Leadership Team will lead the Presbytery in this work.  We are reviewing the work already done.  Then we will take a new look at our core values, mission, vision, etc. and will be engaging the members of Presbytery in each step.  So please join us in this work.