From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
The zoom Presbytery meeting held on Saturday 19th March included the kick-off to our 2022 mission planning for the Presbytery. As part of the planning process the 40 or so participants told and heard stories from each other about a time when they clearly saw God at work in congregations, faith communities and agencies across our Presbytery. These were incredibly enriching conversations that were supplemented by stories sent in by others who could not make it on the day. Stories from that day that have been sent into the Presbytery office will be made widely available across the Presbytery for your encouragement, and so that you can be caught up in how the mission planning is going.
Against the wonderful backdrop of those inspiring stories of God at work among us through the history of this Presbytery, participants then took the opportunity for further spiritual play to find Biblical narratives that resonate with what they had heard. There was a lot of flicking through Bibles of the paper variety and scrolling though Bible references on devices to find Bible passages that connected with important themes from the stories.
Bible references from across the First and New Testament were noted, including from Genesis, Psalms, major prophets like Isaiah, the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Epistles. Importantly, as people spoke about the Bible passages, they also described the themes that the stories and Bible passages had in common. These themes highlighted significant points in the stories and Bible passages.
It was a great day in which it felt like we had numerous holy conversations.
The team that is organising the mission planning across 2022 includes Cameron Eccleston – mission consultant from Uniting Mission and Education of Synod, Presbytery Co-Chairs – Judy McKinlay and Ross Kingdom, Elizabeth Raine, and Andrew Smith. In the weeks after March 19, the team worked further with the analysis of themes that participants did on the day, to identify common themes that were repeated through what people said of the stories and Bible readings.
Here are the clusters of common themes that emerged:
Across the Biblical narratives and passages that were mentioned on the day, most of them were mentioned once only. Two passages were both mentioned twice. One of the twice mentioned passages is the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch found in Acts 9:26-40.
Over the coming weeks the planning team encourages you to dwell in this account. In the Faith+Lead article, Navigate a New Future – 5 Simple Practices to Help Your Congregation Discern God’s Leading in Changing Times, Luther Seminary describes dwelling in Scripture in the following way:
“When we seek to find out where God might be active in our local communities and in our daily lives, and as we consider where to join in with that work, one of the core practices to engage in is Dwelling in the Word. When we Dwell in the Word together, we listen to Scripture together, and we allow God to speak to us through it. Dwelling in the Word is an ancient way of reading the Scripture. It is a way of spiritually submitting to the text as one way God speaks to us, with a willingness to be shaped by what God might want to say through the Scripture. In this way, we are being interpreted by the text together as we listen to it.”
To dwell in Acts 9:26-40 for the mission planning process please ponder the following suggestions by yourself or with a partner or perhaps a small group:
Consider the ways the passage shows God acting, calling or preparing the way for something new to be created.
What is it in the story and the differences between Philip and the Eunuch that means Philip is called out to go outside of his comfort zone to be present and engage with an outsider? What would he have to let go of in his traditions? What new thing is he called to embrace?
What is new, surprising, unexpected in this passage for you, and what provision is there for it?
Where in the story do you see faith growing and being shared? What faithful practices are present in the story?
The next session for the Presbytery mission planning will happen in the morning of the Presbytery meeting on Saturday May 21st. Our time together will include sharing our thoughts on this passage and how it connects with the common themes that have emerged from the mission planning so far. It is an open session for all to attend. More details to come later.