October 28th, 2013

mene mene tekel upharsin, religion

Session is in session

I get to go to a Session meeting tonight! The Presbyterians in the audience are probably now wondering why I seem so excited about that; everybody else is probably just wondering what the heck I'm talking about. If you fall into the latter category, shame on you for not knowing more about Presbyterian polity. I recommend you read the Book of Order to bring yourself up to speed.

Ah ha ha, but of course I am making with the joke. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone, so let me bring you up to speed. The Session is the governing council of a Presbyterian church, somewhat akin to a board of directors. It's composed of church members elected by the congregation to active service as ruling elders, plus all installed pastors and associate pastors serving that congregation, and it's responsible for, well, pretty much everything that goes on in the life of the church. Day-to-day operations are left to the discretion of the pastors and staff, and the congregation is required to approve certain things, like the annual budget and the calling of new pastors and a handful of other things, but even there the Session has a part to play; they set the employment policies and draw up job descriptions and so on, and they call the congregational meetings. It's a big, important, tiring, often thankless job.

I am a ruling elder, but not in active service, so I'm usually at leisure to sip the Session meetings, which I'm please to do. I went to enough of those when I was on the Session of my old church in Virginia. But I have to go to this one, because they'll be voting on a proposal I recently brought before the Christian Witness Commission, the committee that oversees the church's mission outreach: a Day of Service for Madison-area Presbyterians. The proposal was inspired by -- or stolen from -- the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which encouraged its congregations to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ELCA by participating in a day of service on September 8 of this year. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when my brother lives, the town's two Lutheran churches and the Lutheran Seminary joined forces for a joint day of service, and when I saw my brother's photos from the event on Facebook, I figured that if Lutherans in Gettysburg could do something like that, so too could Presbyterians in Madison.

So I drew up a proposal heavily influenced by -- or copied from -- the proposal brought before the ELCA bishops and presented it to the Christian Witness Commission, figuring that I should get my own church to buy into the idea before pitching it to the other churches in the area. They liked the idea, but now it has to be brought before and voted on by the Session, which you may recal is "responsible for, well, pretty much everything that goes on in the life of the church." And I have to be there to answer questions. Fun! Unfortunately, if the agenda is to be believed, the fun will be preceded by a lot of tedium. Better make sure I have a book in my bag.