Greetings, dear Presbyters,
Tempus fugit, y’all. Time flies. Or, as the phrase is sometimes rendered, time flies when you’re having fun. When my daughter was six years old, she went to a friend’s house to play. She’d heard this phrase, and she’d noticed when visiting this friend, she’d hardly get in the door before it was time to go home. So on this visit, she and the friend decided to maximize their time by not having any fun. They went outside and sat under a tree. They didn’t play with any of the myriad toys available. When a snack was offered, they refused to eat it. They didn’t even talk, other than to say how boring it was to do nothing. After two hours, my daughter came home feeling cheated of an afternoon with her friend. “I don’t care how much time we get; from now on, I’m playing.”
I told you that so I can tell you this: I’ve been your Transitional Presbytery Pastor for nine months, time has flown, and while I’m not exactly playing, I enjoy the work, cherish the staff, and love spending time with you and hearing your stories. Time flies, and I’m having fun.
In these nine months I’ve learned a lot about Denver and ministry on a presbytery scale. Here are a few things I want to share with you:
My title is Transitional Presbytery Pastor, which means I am pastor to the pastors on a temporary basis. But my title also indicates that I’m pastor to the presbytery during this time of transition. Do you see the difference? One version is about me, and the other is about you. You’re the important part. I’m your pastor while you move through this time of change. I’m here for you, and I encourage you to call me, send me an email, make an appointment, show up at my office door, invite me to your church to worship and preach. Let’s talk about you.
Creating a vision for the future and tending to the present reality are separate activities, though they go together like peanut butter and jelly. The Vision Team is still in the “getting to know you” phase of the process. It takes a while to know people, and Presbyterians tend to be good at only sorta knowing each other. You might have spent your entire life in the same church with the same people, but do you know what brings them joy? Do you know how they relate to God? Do you know how they relate to the world? Do you know if they project an “everything’s fine” attitude while in their hearts, they hurt, doubt, question, and feel entirely alone for having those feelings? In order to dream together, to lean into God’s purpose for our presbytery, to understand and respect the voice of every person on the Vision Team, the Team must do the work of being still, of listening, of letting our comrades see us for who we are and as we are.
At the same time, there are daily decisions that must be made that affect how we do what we do as a presbytery. These are decisions pertaining to staffing, management, accounting, efficiency and effectiveness. Most of these decisions are independent of the visioning process, and few, if any, can wait until the Vision Team has completed their task.
There’s no timeline for the Vision Team; their work will be finished when they say it’s finished. In the meantime, the Presbytery continues to function with committees and work groups and partnerships, oh my, that plan for the near future, while the Vision Team talks, prays and listens for God’s leading toward the larger future. My job is to lead the Vision Team and to tend to the daily-ness of being Denver Presbytery.
Change started happening the day Tom Sheffield turned in his key. I didn’t bring it and it won’t leave with me when I turn in my key. Change R Us. It’s what we do; it’s who we are. We may say we don’t like it, but we know in our souls that it’s necessary. If we didn’t change, we’d still be holding the first breath we took when we entered the world. We’d all be Catholics listening to the Mass in Latin. We’d still expect people to come to church on Sunday no matter who they are or how they were raised or whether or not they know who Jesus is. I repeat, CHANGE R US.
God loves you. That’s not news, is it? You know that, right? I hope you’ve known since that first breath mentioned in #3. If that’s not the case, I pray you will try knowing it. Take a deep breath and let that truth enter your body like air into your lungs. Let it bring you to the surface to float on a sea of grace. Now find someone who is struggling to get a nostril above the waterline and tell them. You will see them rise.
Rev. Dana Hughes
Transitional Presbytery Pastor