Greetings faith family! As an elder, over the past year it’s been my privilege to write about a variety of topics, and with our website we have even more means to communicate. So today I write to clarify the function of Elders as the governing body of our church, and how that relates to a recent decision we made as Elders.
Both Elders and Deacons are the spiritual leaders of our church. They are presented to Session after vetting by the Officer Nominating Committee (ONC), then approved by congregational vote at an annual general meeting.
Deacons are usually referred to as the heart and hands of Christ’s body, our church family. Their role is pastoral care and their ministry is one of compassion as they actively share Christ’s love with our members.
Ruling Elders are usually thought of as the discerning and strategic leaders of our church. They are the voice of the congregation and bring their “gifts of discernment of God’s Spirit to the governance of God’s people”. The Book of Order mandates that they be “persons of wisdom and maturity of faith with demonstrated skills in leadership and spiritual compassion”. In short, we are the governing officers called upon to make the difficult decisions pertaining to our church ministries and missions.
Notice that compassion for the members of the body of Christ is an essential part of the ministry of both Deacons and Elders. That is what qualifies them to be spiritual leaders of our church family.
Session functions through a system of standing committees: ONC, Administration & Finance, Human Resources and Stewardship. These committees are each led by a current Ruling Elder and include Deacons and general members of the church for a total of seven members each. The committees are tasked with preparing background information on an issue currently in discussion at Session meetings. They present their findings and give their recommendations. Session members then vote to decide the action to be taken on the issue. The lead pastor, who is the Moderator, and the Clerk Session do NOT vote or sway the discussion on any issue brought to Session. Since the Elders are the voice of the congregation, the congregation is not directly involved in the decisions we make.
Recently the Elders were called to make a decision about our Resale Shops, a beloved ministry that provided around 1.8 million dollars to missions over 25 years. The lease ends in April, which means we had to discern how to either continue, or discontinue, this particular ministry. It was hard because we know this impacts not just our own members, but many people in the community who benefit from what the Resale Shops offer.
Like St. Barts Episcopal Church, we came to the conclusion that this ministry is to be celebrated, not continued. So I invite you to attend an Update Forum on the Resale shops this Wednesday, February 5th at 6:30 pm in the sanctuary. Elders will be hosting and guiding the forum.
It might not heal all hurt related to the loss of something we have supported for so long. It is my prayer that this conversation will bring us closer together with a clearer understanding of feelings, facts, and responsibility of church members as your elected Elders to make decisions like this one.