by MWS Leslie Belden, Stated Clerk
A prospective member of one of our congregations wanted to see what our denomination is like and so attended the June 6 meeting of the Presbytery by Zoom. As a result, the Southern Baptist denomination has one fewer member and one of our congregations in eastern Arkansas has one more – that’s what the focus on Congregational Vitality achieved for one church in our Presbytery. I dare say that many other congregations are being encouraged to step out into God’s future in new ways as a result of Jason Tucker’s challenge to us.
This was probably the last meeting that we will attend solely through technology. But I dare say that we have utilized the positive attributes of meeting through Zoom in ways that have benefited our congregations in ways that we never expected. Because we could not meet in person we have brought in speakers who we would not have been able to afford if we were paying for travel. We have all experienced worship in new ways, and been introduced to more of our gifted members from across the Presbytery than we would otherwise have been able to meet. We have missed the hugs of friends, and the ability to catch-up in conversations, but we’ve also concentrated more on what is being said in the context of meetings rather than chit-chatting in the hallway after bathroom breaks. And we cut out the superfluous reports that only said out-loud what was written in the packet.
At this meeting, as with others during the pandemic, the music was outstanding! The “mash-up” of songs/hymns by David Glaze of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Little Rock during the introductory time started the meeting out – literally – on the right note! If you didn’t get on-line early and missed it you really missed a treat. The chat itself where we were guessing the songs was worth the time spent on-line. The business of the meeting focused primarily on new Inquirers and Candidates in the process of becoming Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, including Maggie Johnson of Second, Little Rock, Liz Larkin of First, Rogers, Alex Pickell of Second, Little Rock, and Katie Flood of First, Bentonville, but there was a little other work that was conducted. We made minor changes to the Ministry Manual about who votes at Coordinating Team meetings, and we celebrated the life and ministry of MWS Bud Hearn and MWS Donald Trent who joined the church triumphant since the March meeting through a moment of silence.
A significant decision of the Presbytery was to approve the commissioning of Ruling Elder Michelle Hall as the Commissioned Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln and First Presbyterian Church of Prairie Grove. That commissioning will be through an Administrative Commission at the congregational level rather than at a Presbytery meeting, but the Presbytery celebrates with those congregations and their new pastoral leadership. Michelle has served as a Ruling Elder at First, Lincoln, and the sense of call to serve her own congregation led her to take on-line courses toward being commissioned as a CRE. In the process First, Prairie Grove also sensed that God was moving them in her direction, so she will be serving both congregations. The Presbytery of Arkansas has Commissioned Ruling Elders serving many of our smaller congregations but this is the first time that a congregation has “grown its own” pastoral leadership, and this could be the direction that God is moving in more of our churches.
The exciting prospect of re-developing First Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock in Argenta was shared with the Presbytery as a way that God could be doing new things in new ways in Central Arkansas. The Argenta area is thriving in ways that make it possible to partner with a developer so that the building could be remodeled for future ministry, funded by building apartments/condos on the underutilized portion of the property. It could be possible that the project could fund other ministries of the Presbytery into the future. The Administrative Commission charged with prayerfully discerning the future of First, North Little Rock/Argenta will bring information back to the Presbytery at later meetings.
But of course the highlight of the June 6, 2021 meeting of the Presbytery of Arkansas was the theological discussion led by MWS Jason Tucker, and the worship service at the close of the meeting. MWS Tucker emphasized that the mission of the church to share the Gospel doesn’t change, but the method of how we share the Gospel must change with the culture. He preached on Acts 2:1-11, sharing that the never changing truth of Jesus Christ must be translated into the ever-changing language of the culture if it is to reach new generations.
A total of 156 registered or attended the meeting at one point, of whom 123 could vote. The next meeting of the Presbytery will be October 8-9, 2021 at First United Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville. The fall colors will hopefully be at their peak, and by then it is also hoped that most if not all attendees will be fully vaccinated and that most if not all who can attend in person will be able to. For those whom travel is difficult, or impossible, the option of attending on-line is being planned for. Please put the dates on your calendar!
MWS Leslie Belden