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An ‘our’ way of thinking

PC(USA), A Corporation President Kathy Lueckert points to planned Presbyterian Center renovation as a key indicator of Presbyterian partnership

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Center, at 100 Witherspoon Street in Louisville, Kentucky, is set for a $2.4 million renovation to prepare the denominational headquarters to host the 225th General Assembly in 2022. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — While the Administrative Services Group, which provides back-office functions for agencies in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has plenty to do in the coming months — not the least among them coordinating the $2.4 million renovation of the Presbyterian Center ahead of the 225th General Assembly next summer — Kathy Lueckert said Thursday she’s thinking of the word “our” as a guiding light for working efficiently and effectively with client partners and sister agencies.

“COVID has shown me that our current way of being doesn’t serve us well all the time,” Lueckert, the president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, told the A Corp Board during the opening day of its summer meeting Thursday, which is being held online. “It’s my sense we need to think in terms of ‘our’ instead of thinking separately, as the [current structure of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Office of the General Assembly and the ASG] encourages us to do, as does how the money flows.”

“I don’t know if I’m smart enough to figure out how to make this work,” Lueckert told the board. “But we need to get to a place of how do we do this together across boundaries. We’ve made great strides over the last two years, but I think we have a long way to go. From where I sit, it’s adopting an ‘our’ way of thinking about how we are together in this world.”

Kathy Lueckert is president of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation.

Lueckert labeled as “great” ASG’s partner relations with PMA and OGA. “We have been working hand in glove with the building renovation, and that has been a great thing to see,” Lueckert said. In addition, the agencies came together during the pandemic to solve cash flow issues together, Lueckert said.

But in order to get the renovation proposal approved, “we had to go to multiple boards and people to get approval for something that is an ‘our’ thing,” Lueckert said. “The current structure doesn’t make us very nimble and help us accomplish things that are essential to all of us. We need to be smoother and more coherent.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), thanked Lueckert and the ASG staff for “a tremendous amount of heavy lifting throughout the pandemic … She and her staff are very much keeping us in the circle.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II is Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The renovation, which will include conference facilities, a welcoming center, a television production studio and other amenities, “is not just for one entity, but for the entire Church,” Nelson said. “It’s been referred to as the Stated Clerk’s vision, and it is a vision, but the claim for the vision is across the board. We have a great opportunity in this moment to resurrect the denomination. I am convinced of that.”

“The work that ASG has done to bring us to the table is tremendous, and certainly Kathy’s leadership in this ought to be applauded.”

The board paused Thursday to look at where it’s been over the three years since its creation in 2018. During the first 18 months of its existence, “we were meeting all the time. The board members were doing a lot of the work because we were in the process of getting the organization in place” and then building the organization, said board member the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell. “I think we have accomplished the most important task, which was creating and implementing a culture of customer service and significantly improving the way ASG sees itself as a service organization for its client partners and sibling agencies.”

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell

With that in the rear-view mirror, “it’s time for the board to move back to a more traditional role of counsel and oversight, so our work is not so much operational,” Campbell told her fellow board members. “I think we should feel very good about the work we have done and the platform that is in place, and also dealing with 1½ years of COVID, which was on nobody’s strategic plan.”

Lueckert also took the board through “what we have on our plate for the next 18 months.” Those include:

  • The Presbyterian Center renovation. More information on that project will be presented to the board on Friday. The renovation will enable the upcoming General Assembly to be held at 100 Witherspoon Street in Louisville. “We are not used to hosting General Assembly here in the building,” Lueckert said. “There will be functions that would have been taken on by convention center staff that we will need to figure out how to do on our own.”
  • Financial reporting and payroll system overhaul
  • Support for upcoming PMA organizational changes
  • Continued COVID-19 leadership at the Presbyterian Center. Lueckert said a “strong leadership team” has gathered to “keep people safe here and when they travel.” That work will go on as long as the pandemic continues, Lueckert said.
  • Office space realignment as employees work either exclusively from home or come to the office for a day or two each week. “That will be on our plate post-General Assembly,” Lueckert said.
  • To “make things interesting, we have the General Assembly itself,” hosting and providing hospitality and dealing with GA business items “we know of and don’t know of,” Lueckert said.
  • The redesign of the PC(USA) website, which will be ready next year.
  • ASG realignment, the result of a voluntary separation package offered to employees this summer.

Lueckert also touched on a list of projects the board might want to support should funding be found, including:

  • Expanding “language hospitality” through Global Language Resources
  • Building Information Technology support provided to client partners for what Lueckert called “better service in a post-COVID world.”
  • Expanding training opportunities for employees. “We hear about this routinely,” Lueckert said.
  • Consolidating multiple information systems.
  • Rethinking how IT is done across the ASG, PMA and OGA.

During its Friday meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, the board will receive updates on the building project, the ASG business plan, the pandemic and its effects and Lueckert’s goals and priorities.

The board is scheduled to enter into closed session at 3 p.m. Eastern Time before closing with prayer at 4 p.m.

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