Our Presbytery’s Standing Committee met together earlier this week and, alongside the reports that are presented to each Presbytery meeting, I’m keen to let you know what is being considered and decided along the way.
As part of our devotions we looked at an interactive space we have on one of our Presbytery office walls, known as the Spirit Sightings space. On there we describe times and places, moments and communities in which our staff have encountered God at work throughout our churches and contexts. Standing Committee members added their own stories of witness to God’s grace at work. We heard of a pastoral visit to a centenarian. We marvelled at stories of extravagant generosity being freely shared in response to opportunities made visible during worship. We heard of moments of hope amidst times when hope seemed far away. It was a wonderful way to start our meeting and is a deliberate discipline of the Presbytery staff; to be constantly on the lookout for signs of God’s grace at work in our midst.
The Standing Committee received an update on the situation at St Stephen’s and rejoiced that the Congregation had negotiated a deal with the developer next door for the air rights above St Stephen’s that the Congregation considered fair and reasonable. While the details of this deal are unable to be published, it is good news that the Congregation were, by consensus, very satisfied with the deal which includes the reversion of the air rights to St Stephen’s for a nominal amount when the building that will now be built next door is one day pulled down to make way for something else. This means that future generations will be able to make decisions about the highest and best use of the St Stephen’s property for mission in their day; something that was a very important consideration for the congregation in their decision-making. We acknowledge the significant amount of time and energy that has been devoted to this topic by key leaders of the Congregation and we look forward to cooperating closely with the congregation in a discernment process as required under the new Sales Proceeds Policy that was approved at the Synod Standing Committee meeting in April earlier this year. It was also noted that verbal assurances of a full review of this matter, as requested by Sydney Presbytery, will be initiated by the Synod General Secretary in the months to come.
The Strategic Plan for the next 3 years, as presented to the Presbytery at our last meeting in Ashfield, was approved by the Standing Committee. The feedback given at the Presbytery meeting has been captured and is being included in the unpacking of the 16 Strategic Initiatives identified within the plan. The work of our staff and committees will be inspired by our collective passion to see thriving, well-resourced, missional churches across our region and directed by the four Areas of Focus outlined in the Strategic Plan, which are:
In doing so, all our work as a council will be to lead the Church to life, which is our reason for being.
A budget that supports Year 1 of this Strategic Plan was also approved. More information on this will be pre-circulated for and presented to our August meeting of Presbytery. In considering this the Standing Committee considered the financial reports of the 11 months of the year to date and a 5 year forward projection prepared by our Business Manager, Ian Goff. Strong affirmation of the work being done in the areas of budgeting and financial management by our staff was offered and gratefully received!
As a result of a Life and Witness Consultation it was disclosed to the Standing Committee that one of our Congregations faces a significant and imminent financial crisis. With the strong and urgent recommendation of the Consultation Team and the backing of the PRC, the Standing Committee authorised me to work with the Congregation to put together an immediate assistance package from the Presbytery. The PRC and Standing Committee are hopeful for the medium and long term missional health of this Congregation, and so expressed our solidarity and commitment through a willingness to offer short term financial assistance. As we all know, leading the church to life wasn’t ever guaranteed as a smooth road and we bear our burdens together as a community of faith.
We also received a letter from one of our Congregations with whom the Standing Committee has had a disagreement over a property matter dating back over the last few years. The Congregation asked for the opportunity for the area of disagreement to be looked at again within the context of a Life and Witness Consultation and the Standing Committee were in agreement that this seemed to be the wise way forward. The Presbytery, in establishing this new Consultation, will seek a Chair of the team from outside the Presbytery to ensure that the Consultation considers the area of disagreement with fresh eyes and a holistic view of the mission of the Congregation and the Presbytery.
The next Standing Committee meeting, in July, will consider the financial report of the year that finishes today and preparations our next full meeting of Presbytery.
Til next we meet, may you be a witness to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the contexts of your ministries, and may you be moved with gratitude and courage for the journey.