When I was in seminary a friend helped me prepare for my ordination exams. At our first session he asked, “Who governs the church?” “…God?” I replied, sheepishly, like a kid in Sunday school. He let out a quiet sigh, a clear signal that I should try again. Not knowing where this was heading, I gave my second guess, “Jesus?” He just gave me a blank stare. “The Holy Spirit?” By now it was pretty clear that I was not even in the right ballpark. Not wanting to see me struggle anymore he took in a breath and recited:
“The church is governed by elders gathered in councils.”
I repeated “elders gathered in council.” I liked how it rolled off the tongue. My friend went on to describe all of the councils of the church: committees, Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and, last but not least, General Assembly. Of course, I knew all about these councils, but only as a hodgepodge of meetings that we Presbyterians were required to sign up for every couple of years. But as he described them, I began to see the larger pattern. The whole of the church became a map of lights spread out across the country. Some lights were large, burned brightly for a moment and then faded, while others were dim but constant. They were all connected to each other. Each light was a group of elders gathered in council, discerning God’s will and communicating it to the others. I think it was at that moment when I realized how amazing our denomination is. We are governed, not by a single person or by a group of experts, but by the Spirit as it lands on these ever shifting councils made up of people who come and go as they are called by God.
This Sunday at our congregational meeting we will elect officers. Some may see this as a new obligation or an additional task being placed on someone’s shoulders. I see it differently. I see the hand of God calling someone to take their place in the great map of lights that illuminate with the Spirit in order to communicate what God is doing in the church. It is a very holy vocation.
After the congregational meeting is done, I will go home and start packing for my trip to Louisville, Kentucky where I will join in a gathering of elders in councils to discern God’s will in matters of the national church. I will take my place in a point of light and listen for the Spirit to speak through my friends and colleagues and maybe even my own voice. It will take my time, energy, imagination and love and I am grateful to give it.
Congregational Meeting Zoom Info
Topic: St. Andrew’s’ Congregational Zoom Meeting
Time: Jun 26, 2022 10:30 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 898 4325 4483